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Poetry and Medicine
April 3, 2002

Skull With Two Fruits

Author Affiliations

Poetry and Medicine Section Editor: Charlene Breedlove, Associate Editor.

JAMA. 2002;287(13):1621. doi:10.1001/jama.287.13.1621

You recall Gross Anatomy class
that nervous laughter
exploding like a smell.
In lab, you all careened
between terror and bravado:
Pompano boys with hooves and horns
aiming for your backs.
Knives were keen as winter:
another kind of cold
attached your bones.
First cut: a shuddering fear rose
through you. Life might erupt,
engulfing the whole lab in magma
bubbling from that slit in skin.
You backed away for breath
then studied your descent deep
and deeper into death.
You squirmed over cadavers then
dug in, devouring outer and inner layers
like caterpillars plotting against
elms that sheltered them.
You began again, poised above
this gift of pickled beauty,
this too too solid flesh.
You cut the heart. Blood birds
flew from that cave into yours,
crying secret names of god.
All your certainties blew apart.
Fluid sloshing in a pail
nearby fell like red rain from
a cold steel sky.
Shoulders squared, you dared
all angels to be wrestled with
and pinned. You read lesions,
new scars in your skin.
You were changed by Gross Anatomy
by one truth difficult to disprove
as to prove: this generous final
act of death-defying Love.

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