Playground Of Flesh
Summers home from college I worked
where corpses were kept on steel cots
in crinkly plastic bags. I baby-sat bodies,
assigned each a name and number
for medical students who came in spattered coats
in clots of three around each slab,
unzipped their bag and said hello.
They'd read the tag tied with string to a toe
the name I'd given as carefully as any parent
names a child: Orpheus-80, Galatia-67, Demeter-22 --
names a corpse deserved, I thought,
then with scissors they'd snip skin above the breast
hanging over the corpse's arm
revealing meat, a neat hole cut for the nipple
like a cherry on a sundae.
They'd saw ribs the way you would
a log, taking turns, arms tiring,
then pried open the chest
with vice-like screws. Mist shot out --
the corpse's soul,
or body's belch of air and heat --
as from an uncorked bottle
Up to their elbows in muck,
like children slopping in mud,
they'd dig out organs, dump in a metal tub.
They'd catalogue each part we pass through
this life with, all of it
sloshing inside our clothes.
I'd imagine spirits of cadavers hovering
near the ceiling, looking down, amused at us
in our playground of flesh. I'd sit in the corner
pretending to read but pictured my head attached
to the bodies, my eyes closed, faking my death
just to have someone's hands cup my heart
like a prize tomato.