Those cat heads won’t dissect themselves
My wife, I don’t mind
bragging, is a fertile propagator
of research projects.
When she’s not in the OR
to refurbish a purr or patch
a wag, she’s perfectly at home
in a cold lab, chopping up bodies
of once-beloved pets.
She can leash an ocelot
with anesthesia, jigsaw the carapace
of a Galapagos tortoise, cinch a metal plate
to a shark’s soft vertebrae
then watch it remember how to swim.
She will happily defang your rattlesnake
or tweeze quills from the snout
of your Bluetick hound.
But when Blake or Jericho has hunted
his last, she splays muscles like pages
of a sacred text, seeking news
to bestow on his living fellows
and on surgical conferences
held preferably at ski lodges.
I confess, I like the perks.
It’s Saturday, with leaf-fall, football,
and a cold six-pack, as my wife
goes back to work. Time to celebrate
her favorite holiday: Cadaver’s
First Thaw. In the doorway, she pauses.
Those cat heads won’t dissect
themselves, she sighs. They certainly
won’t. I blow a kiss goodbye,
unmute the game, and picture her lab
as the scene of a crime
beyond the reach of any detective.
For weeks, new medical students
have been slicing too, dismembering
the familiar H. sapiens—beneficent
donors, civic-minded, willing to submit
to this ragged end. Now,
as their exam looms, students work late,
return to the lab and glove again
to trace interlacings of nerves and veins.
Could science ever be stripped of desire?
Yes, I can hear my wife insist. Hypothesis,
methods, results. Isn’t it obvious?
But my commercial-borne thoughts drift
to Botox, emotional-support gerbils,
investments to enhance the feel
and dangle of canine testicular implants.
At halftime, I hit the grocery store
with my inky list: rosemary, lemon,
and pork tenderloin. Garlic, thyme,
and red potatoes. Inspired to invent
a marinade, I load boozy bottles
in the cart, bring it all back to trim
the sparse fat. Paring knife, cutting
board, half-sauced at this point,
I don’t claim to know what
I’m doing, this portion of poem
called “Slathering lipstick on a hunk
of pig,” badly enjambed at that and yet
a proper shunt for my love
and disgust—words my meager way
to suture one absurdity to another.
When my wife returns
and finds me in the kitchen—
her blue scrubs spattered with blood,
with gore thrown up
from the bone saw, cat hair
matted to her shoes and socks—
she stops, drinks the steamy richness,
and offers me a generous smile.
Mm, she says, smells nice.
What exactly have you made us?
Woods Nash, MPH, PhD, is Assistant Professor of Bioethics and Medical Humanities at the University of Houston Fertitta Family College of Medicine. His poems and essays have appeared in JAMA, Academic Medicine, Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine, JGIM, Annals of Internal Medicine, and the Bellevue Literary Review. He is from Glasgow, Kentucky