The Naming of Bones
The hardest part of separating another human being into teachable pieces?
Not the chemicaled skin that dulls scalpels.
Not the stare of warped pupils as your hacksaw
jerks in the
Not dicing genitals, bringing the dark parts of sex to light.
Not scraping tendon from glistening femur to find cartilage cradled
in joints at either end
the greater and lesser trochanters who wrap the neck like scarves
the tuberosities which anchor muscle
the arc of the linea aspera towards the knee.
None of that.
It’s the smell.
Embalming solutions are chosen to capture the texture of tissues
to hold the hues of purple lung and crimson liver
to plump arteries.
The scent overpowers what we pretend
Formaldehyde ethanol glycerine
they cradle each cell
whisper death is long in coming
convince the bodies nothing has changed.
The ammonia and pickle scent dulls your attention as you dissect the dead.
Sometimes, years later, your nose remembers—
on your thumb as you clear sleep from your eye or
below the clavicle of your lover—
and you recall the bones below,
and how we all are joined.