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Poetry and Medicine
June 2, 2004

Anatomy Lessons

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2004;291(21):2524. doi:10.1001/jama.291.21.2524

After two paintings by Rembrandt
Two or three days ago that long left hand
Was picking pockets. Now it has palm up
On his pale left groin and thigh. With a clamp
The doctor tugged as skinned fingers twitched; Tulp
Gestured with his own left hand, then paused
And intoned the names of muscles and tendons;
Flexor carpi, Palmaris longus.
Doctor Deyman removed the ventral organs,
Then peeled the scalp and unskulled the brain
Of the criminal, Fleming Johan Fonteyn.
And the artist's own hand, wet with spilt paint,
Dabs the heft of sinew, flesh of a thief,
The darkness and light, and strange symmetries:
The urges of men to make and unmake.

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