Prayer at the Mütter Museum with a Woman You Loved

Charles Manis

Museum of medical oddities, models, and antique equipment.

God, my sweet rhetorical device,
absent sentinel, let this not befall us,

let our skin never boil, let our limbs
not flake from our torsos, let us never

sprout fibrous horns. Let us not occasion
wax models or the invention of new forceps,

dermatomes or drill bits. Let no surgeon
fashion our hides into the smoky covers

of medical notebooks. O please, God,
do not visit upon me a Megacolon.

Damn my skepticism, that I come here
bereft of protective charms,

through the rows of fetal corpses conjoined
at their pelvises, spinal columns lunging

from their necks, past the exhibit of tumors,
syphilis, and hip joint amputations.

When we come together upon Chang and
Eng’s bottled liver, and the placard that notes

their separate moments of death,
let me not draw away from her—

steal my breath and seize my tongue
so I won't voice my horror and inspire in her

that expression of rumpled wonder that is
another way to say to me, Obviously.

Of course he spent his last hours attached
to the carcass, waiting to toxify.

O God, bless the muscle of her lumbar region,
and make my own back meaty and durable.

Stretch my soul skintight. Make me the poster-boy
for desire, poised between action and exhaustion.

Lubricate my tongue to say,
I want to fuck you inside a bell jar.

Let the words slur from all my empty spaces.
Annihilate whatever in me would recoil.

Jar my organs. Formaldehyde my blood.
Let her keep me on her bedside table.