Jack Is Glad He’s Not a Surgeon

by Kevin Brown

On my way to work one morning, I noticed
a billboard of bodies, skin flayed away,
leaving only men with muscles, some

macabre–or medical–museum exhibit.
And I was reminded of Ralph, the cat
I kept for one semester of sophomore

biology, whose muscles I memorized,
made mine, not by bending over a book,
but by modeling at the mirror, moving

my arm one way, flexing my fingers
another, trying to see how I connected
and how I did not. But then we cut

that cat open, found intestines that looked
like mangled macaroni and cheese
(at least to two teenagers). Dead from

disease, Ms. Campbell commented,
Cancer, probably, leaving us to study
suffering’s causes and its effects. I

wonder what that fifteen-year-old might
find if he could map my muscles now,
could cut me open–scalpel scraping

sternum on the way down: lungs
atrophied from inactivity, the empty
space from when I gave my gall

bladder away before thirty, and my
heart, unscarred, but barely beating.


Kevin Brown is a Professor at Lee University. He has published two books of poetry–A Lexicon of Lost Words (winner of the Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry, Snake Nation Press) and Exit Lines (Plain View Press, 2009)–and two chapbooks: Abecedarium (Finishing Line Press, 2011) and Holy Days: Poems (winner of Split Oak Press Chapbook Contest, 2011). He also has a memoir, Another Way: Finding Faith, Then Finding It Again (Wipf and Stock, 2012), and a book of scholarship, They Love to Tell the Stories: Five Contemporary Novelists Take on the Gospels (Kennesaw State University Press, 2012). He received his MFA from Murray State University.

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