Two Poems by Hilary Mosher Buri
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