Two Poems by Hilary Mosher Buri

Germ (1845) In the morning the instruments lie clean and straight. Students come, the smell of sleep and tea yet fresh on them. Bodies still and cold each claim a table. Blue in the light. Smell of the oil lamps. The first cutís pull and release. A man I know claimed autopsy derives from to see oneís own self. I had thought it meant simply to see for oneís self, though perhaps we do grow dis- then re-embodied as we see within another. In the afternoon, after a dinner of sausage and beer--froth of the beer on the lips, vague scent of the cadaver, blood and formalin, on the hand on the glass-- the students return to the ward. Upstairs are women moaning in delirium, or, in silence, grimacing. These are women of privilege--they can afford better than a midwife. They are on a section one. The doctor reaches first inside one, just as one reaches inside a cow to turn a breached calf. Or, as a doctor reached this morning into a corpse to indicate years of scarring on a liver. Should I claim the students, as they reach in turn, feel surprise? With what strength and redness the blood flows, how skin rebounds to the touch, as skin does of other women, in other beds. Doctors and students together deliver alive most all the infants, some with forcep marks or minor dislocations, pinched-faced yet breathing in the cribs. The mothers, so many, grow fevered and breathless, within days, sometimes hours. Soon, death. For a full year, then another, the chief doctor wonders Why in this first section, not the second? And why should the midwives bring more mothers through alive? What should I speculate distracted him From where the mystery resided? A belief in strangeness in the womb: peculiar, female? How to account for the right situation, for the time any figuring takes? In delivery a colleague nicks the pad of his finger. He dies in days as does the mother. So. With a small cut, an answer: To slow deathís rate the doctor orders chlorinated lime, a wash in which, before each examination, to bathe the hands.
Despite all, inception The child flips the pages so the sparrow flies in place in the corner of the book: each page a single moment and his fingers a notion of time. Fused in bark, a jawbone grew head-high in the mass of shade that multiplied within the skull: a riddle now, of curves with no inside or out--. My unstudied pencil draws a bodyís length, four legs, a tail, two ears; the child sees a horse, a deer, an elephant in these few and inept clues. The nerve canal of a vertebra of a boy one-million-and-one-half-years-old is too narrow for both speech and breath: the boy breathed. One can deduce his was a speechless race. Six months we survived before the first word. Now, the child and I learn to count: crows in the sky, items in a series. He canít say which apple is seven without first touching 1 2 3 4 5 and 6. On our first mountain walk, an outcrop of rock shone full of crystals, formed deep within the planetís crust, sixty million years agoÖ crystals bright and figured, as dragonflies or snow, towards which my child darts, as if to catch. Hilary Mosher Buri