Karl Kirchwey

Edinburgh University Anatomical Collection
November 22, 2019 Kirchwey Karl

Edinburgh University Anatomical Collection
Take shelter awhile from mortality
under a Perspex cast
of the spreading bronchial tree,
or the human lungs in Marco Resin,
passages ramifying
and delicate as a sea-fan,
while in a nearby display case,
that supine twist of chaw
or beef jerky with a penis
looking like something the glacier
decided to give back
to global warming after
five thousand years is the work
of Alexander Monro Secundus,
who with a virtuoso technique
injected the lymph vessels with mercury
then lacquered the whole thing.
Crystal lights twinkle in the cavity
of the thorax that is by now
sadly afflicted with woodworm.
The mediocre son, the third Monro,
given the corpse to dissect
of a celebrated murderer,
unfortunately lacked
a necessary imagination,
and could think of nothing
better to do than
write in the stuttering blood
a letter to no one in particular
saying I took it from his head.

Karl Kirchwey is the author of seven books of poems. His eighth, Good Apothecary, is forthcoming from Northwestern University Press in 2025. Sections of his ongoing long poem Mutabor have appeared in journals since 2011. He teaches in the MFA programs in Creative Writing and in Literary Translation at Boston University.