Eye Contact

July 15, 2019
Richard M. Berlin, MD

Volume 36, Issue 7

A ghostly glow frames the face of a man with nothing to hide...

From the portrait of Andreas Vesalius in De Humani Corporis Fabrica (The Structure of the Human Body), 1543.

A ghostly glow

frames the face of a man

with nothing to hide,

his vision honed

on the graceful heft

of charnel house bones

poached from the Cemetery

of the Innocents

and the hangman’s noose.

His fierce eyes

lock on ours, confident

as we stand beside him

witnessing the dissected truth

of a sternum’s three bones,

a sacrum’s six, the singular

presence of a ductus arteriosus.

With nostrils grooming death

and a flayed cadaver at hand,

his eyes compel us to plumb

The Fabrica’s woodcut

skeletons dressed in flesh

flaunting deltoids gaudy

as epaulets, each sartorius

ribboning a lusty thigh

of pained, praying souls

that mirror his heart and mind,

men muscled hard as gods

whose beauty turns

a blind eye toward death.

Come closer, his gaze

commands. Abandon fear

and Galen’s dogma.

Confirm my work to find

in a body’s design

the naked truth

your own keen eyes

can see.

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