V  P  R

Contemporary Poetry and Poetics




She downloads the picture of the alligator
who swallowed a man. Autopsy photo,
green scaled skin slit down the middle
and peeled back like some leathery fruit
to expose a human arm, drained
of blood, white as fingers after soaking.
The surgeon lifts this limb by the wrist,
displays it for the camera. On the computer
screen, it's hard to tell which blurred shape
might be a leg, a shoulder, alligator guts.
She looks again, reaches to click
enlarging the frame. She can see how the skin
falls back in layers, green and brown,
and the ghostlike arm emerging.
She remembers frog dissections as a child
in school, the organs labeled, parts
belonging to other parts, formaldehyde
and stainless steel, never asking
what happened to the cut-up frogs
at semester's end, their bellies peeled apart,
skin slit. She remembers the hand of her lover
the day he died, how she sat next to him
as he sank deeper in the white bed,
how she held his hand, how she raised it
higher, as if he could wave, could flag down
lifeguards on the shore as he slipped
farther and farther, drowning in his own
breath, the hospital sheets peeled back in layers
around him till he was nothing but
that hand, and her two hands holding
on till her own fingers whitened
and she stepped away from him,
the moment dissecting
all their time together,
her whispered "no"
like one last click, a knife.


© by Anne Haines


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