AUTOPSY, VERB & NOUN || Michael Salcman

Meaning to see yourself or see for yourself,
To look within others or in the mirror,
As if Vesalius could dissect his own heart
And brain or any other vital part
Bequeathed by his father or mother.

Going after giving hurt to another
Is the usual impetus to start cutting —
Own to a pain caused by poor judgment,
An offhand remark or inadvertent spark,
A careless match reigniting a hidden flame.

If neither body nor brain has a devil’s sense
Of where the cupboard of poisons is kept
Or why we brew them in darkness and when,
Can this scalpel uncover the answer?

Michael Salcman was chairman of neurosurgery at the University of Maryland and president of the Contemporary Museum. Poems appear in Arts & Letters, Barrow Street, Café Review, The Hudson Review, New Letters, and Poet Lore. Books include The Clock Made of Confetti, The Enemy of Good is Better, Poetry in Medicine, a popular anthology of classic and contemporary poems on doctors, patients, illness & healing, and A Prague Spring, Before & After (2015 Sinclair Poetry Prize), and Shades & Graces, inaugural winner of The Daniel Hoffman Legacy Book Prize (2020). Necessary Speech: New & Selected Poems (2022) was recently published by Spuyten Duyvil.

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