How I Learned I Would Never Be a Biologist
Dissection nixed that dream.
I’d praised myself as iron-stomached—
cracked the shell of the crawdad
no problem, split the nerve bundle
that connected segmented legs
to heart-center in namaste.
The frog, too, my hands stayed steady
for, scalpeled the tough skin
of its inner thighs,
lined like latitudes and longitudes
of a whole world in there,
its small heart in its chest.
And then came the fetal pigs.
We had to tie their hooves
ourselves, twine string
around the silver-bellied tray.
Mine bounced and rolled.
Heavy suckers. Frozen solid.
Slit the stomach first,
as commanded—pin back
the flaps of skin and look
into the abyss of dyed latex.
Too much abyss and too much latex.
The pink spilled,
covered my hands in plastic lumps
until I couldn’t tell one organ
from the next, packed
liked busted talismans
in that gut.
Next, we sliced the eyelids
open, because they’d never separated
before the pig was taken
from the belly of a mother led
grunting down a chute
that ended in stars and lightning,
slung up in a packing plant
finishing her life as bacon
away from the shitty concrete—
but the small pig in her
still dreamed away from far chutes,
never saw anything but blue.
When I unveiled the eyes—
like hard blueberries, brined
muscle knotted into a toothy black pearl
in the head formed
behind the heart of the mother pig—
I was done.
This is not a textbook.
This is not words.
This is a pink gullet opened
to boxed halogen lights in a lab,
a dreaming piglet that followed no dream,
three blue-gloved students
who will not go on to study anatomy.
This is two lungs and a kidney
I can’t tell from liver, splayed
like unformed lumps of clay
until we hauled out all the organs
to label, dissect, trace,
name on our diagrams and so
stake our power over them.
Afterwards, I looked at the stink
of the thing, the mangled failure of skin
and hoof and leg,
the mess I pulled apart
and knew I could never put it back together.
No diagram could shape it.
No drawings or words would bring it back.