"Anatomy Lab"


"By year’s end, brittle with guilt, we hovered over our hollow creation..."

Any Good Poem

Richard Berlin, MD, shares his poem "Anatomy Lab."

Anatomy Lab

She was stretched out naked,

young and blonde,

wild and frightening

when the others were so old,

everyone at the steel table

pretending not to notice

the fortune of her body.

That first day I sliced off her breast,

scalpel circling round and round

the way I might halve a peach,

to study her glistening secrets

with detachment and awe.

We explored the deep insertions

where muscle joins bone,

subtracted her face, her arms,

plucked ovaries and heart like thieves,

but lost count of the treasures

severed from ourselves.

By year’s end, brittle with guilt,

we hovered over our hollow creation,

pretending to look away

from the short blonde braid

at the base of her skull

no one had the courage to cut.

Dr Berlin has been writing a poem about his experience of being a doctor every month for the past 25 years in the Psychiatric Times™ “Poetry of the Times” column. He is instructor in psychiatry, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, Massachusetts. His latest book is Freud on My Couch.

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