Because my father always wanted
me to be a doctor, he’s brought me here
to the window of the operating room.
Fluorescent glare spot-lights a patient
swaddled in sheets, abdomen exposed.
Dr. Madigan swabs the belly with alcohol,
purple as burnt blood. I expect a 4-way cut,
the doctor peeling back flesh flaps
revealing the insides. But Madigan sticks
wide plastic tape over the patient’s belly,
slices into the tape and skin,
a single slit, six inches.
Madigan plunges his hand into
the belly up to his wrist, gazes up
into ceiling lights, feeling through
the mush of organs, mutters
as his knuckles bulge the belly
from within like ground swells.
There’s the spleen, yes, liver,
gall bladder, hup, there it is.
He pulls out a slimy jellied string.
Small intestine, my father whispers.
I’m fifteen, and I don’t want to look,
can’t believe that’s me inside.
The string gets longer and longer,
three feet, like a glistening
purple snake, slipping through his gloves.
He reads it like tickertape, stops
at a bulbous, reddish lump, holds it up
for me to see, winks at my father.
With a scalpel, he cuts off a knob
of bruised tissue. Bile rises in my throat.
My father slaps my back. A nurse
sucks up the blood with a nozzle and hose.