Thought Experiment on the Examination Table
The autopsy didn’t go as planned.
The dissection didn’t yield the results
we were all praying for. This man holds
his bones backwards, his joints
pop, they release air between
the calcium. His bones resemble
those of birds, nearly hollow,
interior like swiss cheese or a car
shot up with bullets. We found
violence, we found rage. There was
a storage of fluid that tasted like
bile when we held the test tube
against our lips. We gnawed on
his hip bones to find answers.
We kissed off the muscle over
the course of several weeks.
Our gums are sore from sucking.
The coroner denied our request for
a glass of water. We prop our bodies up
on the examination table to fight
our impending collapse. We’re
exhausted. We’ve done all we could.
Time of death: twilight. Cause:
still unknown. What information
will give them satisfaction? How
this man used his hands to
talk? How he said hello and then
if you tell anyone, I will ruin you?
I’ve still got the scalpel in my hand
after years, I forget when it was
that he died, when they made me
begin his examination, when the other
women joined me in the room.
The room smells rancid but they tell us
we have to keep going. Yesterday
one of the women died but no one
gave her an autopsy, a burial.
No one removed her scrubs,
her hair net. No one sponged her body.
We put a blanket over her to accelerate
the rot. When they turn off the lights
I’ll open the man’s ribcage and ask
permission to crawl inside. I’ll ask
if this feels good, if there’s anything
special he needs from me. I’ll listen
for a response. I’ll listen forever.
Hannah Kucharzak is a poet and visual artist from Chicago. Her poems have been previously published in Pleiades, Yes Poetry, TYPO, Cosmonauts Avenue, and elsewhere. Kucharzak’s work is anthologized in A Shadow Map: An Anthology by Survivors of Sexual Assault (Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2017).