A medical student once asked me,
“Would you like to see my corpse?
“You get one when you start training.
“A dead body is one of the perks.”
He gave me a badge then said, “Follow me”
And we reached the Anatomy Lab.
“Mr. Smith,” he said, indicating a dead body,
“I call him Tom. Isn’t he fab?”
Parts of Tom Smith had been placed in bags
Neatly labeled before incineration.
“We’ve kept all your bits, haven’t we Tom?”
“Not for you so much as your relations.”
He patted him on the head then turned to me
“The relations like everything to be there.
“Not that he’ll be resurrecting anytime soon,
“But they just like to know that we care.”
Mr. Smith was a yellow-green colour;
His eyes were shut; his head shaved.
I knew that he couldn’t but I still wondered
If he heard us or saw how we behaved.
There was something about his dead body
That seemed to be playing Hide and Seek;
Something about the tense way his lips met
That suggested he was about to speak.
Had he been rash in letting his body be sliced up?
It looked as if it contained a singular spirit.
Was he happy for his body to be salami for science
Rather than being burnt or being buried?
Despite its undergoing dissection the body had presence..
I tried to imagine its interior life:
Were there any gods or imaginary friends within its skull
To bring it comfort from the student’s knife?
“He definitely seems to be more alive at night”,
Said my friend as if reading my mind,
“I often think that I can feel him thinking thoughts
“Though his brain’s been… well, redesigned.”
“In fact he made me feel a bit like Henry the Eighth,
“As I was cutting his head off with a circular saw –
“Decapitated and then de-cerebrated for science
“But it did make me wonder what life was for.”
Then he asked me if I’d like to see the new arrivals
“All the ones lying in cold storage.”
He pulled out drawer after drawer in the mortuary
In order to broaden my knowledge.
And yet I’m not sure that I learned anything,
They were suddenly so alien in nature:
All were ultimately empty and gave no hint
Of their former owners’ new pastures.
When we returned to the Anatomy Lab
Mr. Smith was still lying there
Being dead was after all his full-time job;
He’d reached a dead-end in his career.
But even though dead his presence was helpful
For I remembered that Buddhist exercise
In which you imagine yourself dead to live fully;
Learn to visualize yourself as a corpse.
Art Elena Caldera