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Anatomy: A Poem

A mosaic of colorful papers, forming the image of a tree, made by Pranoti and her classmates.

Like many medical schools across the nation, mine taught its first-year anatomy course through dissection of human bodies. Donors of cadavers donate their bodies for the education of medical students, specifically for the anatomy dissection course. It seemed violent, grotesque and bizarre to cut open a preserved, very dead human body. The only way I got through those two months of dissection was by knowing that someone — the someone I was cutting open — wanted me to both perform the dissection and learn from it.


My donor tells me to be bold, just by his very presence.
I donated my body,
so bisect my skull, chisel through my knee,
take the scalpel and make the first incision through my skin.
Act. Be bold,
and also be brilliant. Transform each moment you spend with my body into a brick and
build the foundation for a lifetime of moments dedicated to the bodies of others.
in the process of peeling back layers and layers of imperfection,
yet always preserving a shroud made of
nothing but your respect for the soul that once resided within these layers.
Are you mad at me for recoiling at the sight of your intestines, your green gallbladder?
Are you surprised to hear that the experience of feeling and smelling your body was
too tangible? Such that I ran away to
the museum to reincarnate my impression of the human body
through paintings, those two-dimensional representations
so far removed from touch and smell. But later, as we dissected, I'd find myself
holding your hand or your shoulder, maintaining the connection between us.
And to think how much hesitation I had to overcome the first time I touched you.
It was hesitation that I overcame because of you —– because I knew
that this is what you wanted and expected from me. My donor tells me to be bold.
Be bold, and be brilliant.


While thinking of a fitting art piece that could serve as a lasting memorial to the anatomy donors, I could only imagine something that we could create together with my medical class and instructors. We all had a deep sense of gratitude to our donors, and yet each interpretation of the experience and each expression of thanks was unique. Each student contributed a different piece of paper to the mosaic, and wrote their expression of thanks upon it.

Ultimately, it linked together our reflections just as the experience united us:

A mosaic of colorful papers, forming the image of a tree, made by Pranoti and her classmates.

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