Monday, November 16, 2009

The White Museum

My aunt was an organ donor
and so, the day she died,

her organs were harvested

for medical science.

I suppose there must be people
who list, under "Occupation,"

"Organ Harvester," people for whom

it is always harvest season,

each death bringing its bounty.

They spend their days
loading wagonloads of kidneys,

whole cornucopias of corneas,

burlap sacks groaning with hearts and lungs

and the pale green sprouts of gall bladders,

and even, from time to time,

the weighty cauliflower of a brain.


And perhaps today,

as I sit in this café, watching the snow

and thinking about my aunt,

a young medical student somewhere

is moving through the white museum

of her brain, making his way slowly

from one great room to the next.

Here is the gallery of her girlhood,

with that great canvas depicting her father

holding her on his lap in the backyard

of their bungalow in St. Louis.

And here is a sketch of her

the summer after her mother died,

walking down a street in Berlin

when the broken city was itself
a museum. And here

is a small, vivid oil of the two of us

sitting in a café in London

arguing over the work of Constable

or Turner, or Francis Bacon
after a visit to the Tate.

I want you to know, as you sit there

with your microscope and your slides,

there's no need to be reverent before these images.

That's the last thing she would have wanted.

But do be respectful. Speak quietly.

No flash photography. Tell your friends

you saw something beautiful.



"The White Museum" by George Bilgere. Reprinted with the permission of the author.

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