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In the Dream We All Live in a Victorian Mansion and Perform Surgeries in the Attic

Our hands don’t shake anymore, we say
“This one has to lose that leg,” without a head tilt or pause.
There is a jar in the kitchen where we keep the scalpel
(the one we all use) to cut the tally marks in our arms.
Some of us for the ones that survive.
“Did he make it?” The concerned lover asks in our waiting room.
I’m less apologetic. I flayed the skin right
but lost the breath, and took the body to the morgue.
We’ve been standing all day, yet are all still awake
as the night shift trudges up the stairs between our beds.

I say “Good morning,” to ten of us in the kitchen,
“there will be waffles!”
And everyone lowers their surgical masks to eat. The syrup’s drips
becoming the day’s forecast. Someone’s getting anesthesia
so the lights blink on then off
and someone needs to change a fuse.
There used to be days
between craniotomies and setting seams in pericardium,
now we’re always operating on someone, sleeping in scrubs,
waking up to observe someone else
performing the perfect appendectomy.
On the slower days, the ones we could
possibly sleep through, we examine
each other’s damage, separating our rib walls
to explore what we show no one else.
Posted 02/11/10
Published in the Roanoke Review
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