In third grade, we dissected a cow’s eyeball.
The stink of chemicals: a graduation
from the pink plastic stethoscope.
I slit the loose, filmy skin,
slipped the lens from its sheath, slid it over newspaper print.
The headlines turned to ink and fiber.
Not a body part. A magnifying glass.
Ms. Foy called this Understanding
My youth was not pink and lace but sleepless nights
and jawless snakes who hissed
my name from the closet.
Aliens watching from the window,
clenching their cold grey hands.
Schoolroom dissection was comforting.
Finally, the kind of blood I could actually touch. Death
turned familiar, a black dog. In autumn,
my step dad would bring home the corpse of a deer
and hang it in the garage,
a makeshift butchery.
It wasn’t the ransacked red
where its guts should be
that bothered me. It was its eyes:
Empty in the way the rest of the universe must be empty—
soulless in the way criminals must not have souls.
But I wasn’t scared anymore,
because I knew how to make a diagram
of a corpse. The eye measures approximately
two-point-five centimeters and is situated in a cone-shaped cavity
called the orbit or eye socket…
I could have slit it with a scalpel,
turned the lens into a glass.
Do I think if I give a scientific name to my haunting
that their hands won’t come for me one night? – not dripping
and hoarse like the end of American horror movies,
but cold. Impossibly clean. The pared edge
of a hospital bed.
In twelfth grade,
A rope, a closet hanger, a full bottle of pills:
this was all we knew. This was
the answer to the cow’s screaming body parts: the stink
at the end of the hook. The jawless snakes in my closet
finally had a name.
Going to a funeral is realizing
the horror of a heliocentric solar system,
how the entirety of human history is peripheral,
the whisper of one scared child to another
in a bedsheet tent.
The constellations don’t make up stories
As for Jake—
we spent a month dissecting him,
hoping to explain anything at all.
But we were disgusted by the maggots
writhing in his body’s gut,
so we turned him into an angel, too pure for blood.
Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 15, Issue 2.