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Poetry and Medicine
March 3, 2004


JAMA. 2004;291(9):1042. doi:10.1001/jama.291.9.1042

An embalmed sheep heart arrived in the mail,
ordered from a scientific catalog.
I slit hygienic wrappings, heart's pale
bland-bath pickling-spirit fog
centered on a cutting board to view.
I sliced dense-blushed ventricles to know all the heart knew.
Dormant in tissues, part mimics whole:
dunked to solutions and salts, shreds toll erratic
pulse. Holding the teasing needle, I poke a little hole
trailing artery, silver point popping out at the stoic-
still aorta: deathly clapper, wracked bell,
each cell's sea-spell quietus of empty shell.
Systole the heart's winter, diastole the heart's summer:
half-second seasons elapse,
moment of emptying, filling, blur.
Traces of fruit and fruit's organized collapse:
starry-seeded blood-bright rind tatter-valved in atrium
—I held the heart to know analysis turns love to vivisection.

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