Medicine Man

by Philip F. Clark

The scalpel is
prescient -- 
it knows 
blood before 
it cuts.
Every surgeon 
is a seer.

We start here, 
just below the neck. 
The slide of its 
sharpened silver
touches softly,
enters the skin 
with care; half

the cut is question,
and half an answer. 
This is nothing that has died. 
A long, thin sluice of red
between the breast.

The knife, a planchette,
moves from nipple to
stomach, to rib. What word 
will come, and of what disease?
Metal listens well. 

And who was this? Some Jim
or Anne; we cannot tell. Heart,
spleen, bladder, ovary or scrotum?
The body's secret unguents
are perfume beneath the knife.

Skin reveals its secrets:
alcohol, nicotine, an adipose 
on the lung; hard tissue, 
multiplying cells. A scent 
of something slowly
seeping -- what, at last,
is breath?