The first mistake I made
was leaving my ID card home
in the pocket of my fleece–
the one with a zipper that broke
in Namibia and a hole stabbed
by a pencil during finals, worn
deep with worry and time.
Later, I asked someone else
to let me into the lab.
We made small talk in the hall.
Second, it was drizzling and my umbrella
knew not where it was. How poetic!
I mean to say, I forgot it too.
Morning lecture dried my frizzled hair,
and anyway, maybe cadavers like
the smell of rain.
Third, I offered to help
because turning the body is heavy,
and I secretly wanted to see her face.
Fourth, only this:
instead, I looked at her toes,
and they were painted bright red.
About the poet:
Sophia Valesca Görgens attended Boston College, where she studied biology and English with a concentration in creative writing. She is currently a medical student at Emory University.
About the poem:
“On the first day of Human Anatomy’s dissection number two (gluteal, thigh, knee), I offered to help my teammates turn the cadaver. This can be a difficult task, and it’s always easier with more people. Of course, this was the day I rushed out of my apartment completely unprepared–not only without my ID card or umbrella but also without a sense of what to expect. To be confronted by our cadaver’s humanity in the simplicity of her painted toes…it took my breath away. When I closed my eyes, there in the cadaver lab, I was suddenly transported to her hospital room, to a daughter and mother having one last conversation, sharing one last laugh, painting their toenails together, defying death with their love.”
Johanna Shapiro and Judy Schaefer