Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Today's poem.

Because you KNOW how I dig the Renaissance references. Plus, the cadavers.

"The Flayed Man"
after Juan de Valverde’s 1560 anatomy text, Anatomia del corpo umano

He has flayed himself for our inspection, pressed
his knife through the dermis of his large right toe,
run its tip along the base of his foot, splitting left
from right, up the back of his calf and thigh, carefully,
the way a woman runs the seam of her stockings
up the midline of each leg, and slipped his muscled
and gelatinous body from its casing. As one slices
the skin from an apple in a long spiraling similitude,
he has kept, where possible, his ghostly likeness
intact. In one hand he holds it out to us, a testament
to what he’s done, and in the other he holds
the knife. Martyr for science, he stands, each muscle
overdeveloped, numbered for the anatomist’s study
as if it were possible to slit this human casing, slip
from one’s integument and go on living
in the delicate inner flesh. What then is beauty
when the skin has been shucked? A marbling of muscle
and fat, the patterning of veins and arteries, tenderness
of disease? Complicit, a participant in his own dissection,
the Flayed Man brandishes his life: without regard
for his soul, he offers this oblation, his own decorticated
corpus, to Medicine and Anatomy. For over a thousand
years, for fear that to dissect the body impedes
the soul’s chrysalis, its incorporeal unfurling, the study
of anatomy had virtually stopped, but now
the Flayed Man, his jaunty disregard, his terrible
theatrical privation, the outstretched offering
of his own skin as if to say, all this, I have done for you.

--Nadine Sabra Meyer

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