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Poetry and Medicine
June 11, 2014

Archaeology

Author Affiliations
  • 1Brookline, Massachusetts
JAMA. 2014;311(22):2338. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.285647

She lay before us, steeped in vapors
of formalin, her body a sarcophagus
that once contained a woman, bled dry
of memories, name effaced.
We worked our scalpels tired
through what remained—
skin, sinew, wall of bone.
With atlases splayed open, we ventured
beneath the surface.
The taking apart was easy—
artifacts inventoried to piece together
history, rotated in light, arranged to fit
on metal trays, displayed as sum of parts.
Under the glare of lamps we mapped
cranial lakes, traced the alveolar labyrinth,
scaled the spinal scaffold to reach cavities
untouched by sunlight where we plucked
what had withered on arterial vines—
womb that battled a clock,
heart that raced under caress or fear
now motionless
in our trembling hands.

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