poem index

Pernkopf Atlas

by Zoe Hitzig
 

Volume Two. Thorax, Abdomen and Extremities, with 378 Illustrations,
           Most in Color.
Apt that Fig. 1 presents external form of a female breast and chest,
          surface, grayscale,
intact and mapped region by region with a fan of bayonets sketched to
          this or that
latinate term. Mapped like a virgin. Each term a whisper, a small assertion
          of humanity
taken as consent, collateral. As
          ransom.
Preparatory work done to gain access to deeper regions (e.g. the cutting
          of muscles,
reflection of parts, disarticulations and separation of muscles and blood
          vessels by means of
retractors) has not been explained in the legends when the steps
          in the prep-
aration were self-evident. The human figure is self-
          evident, I have
often thought—its only evidence is itself. We draw definitions
          to learn,
draw nude models in studio classrooms to learn about shadow,
          draw
the dead to discover what casts it and why definition does not always
          suffice.
Draw with Fig. 88, the hand, collateral. An extremity’s extremity. Fingers, more
          extreme.
Ring and pinky ones untouched touching the page.
          The cut
begins at top-center of the middle finger fingernail down the now-blue
          tendon
to the watchline. Another cut, perhaps along it. There is a crease on my wrist
          where my hairband
sits when I sleep with my hair down. There is always hair where extremity
          begins.
On pulled-away skin, the flap, poses a tattoo which even in death this hand cannot
          escape, a signature
heavy with, without. Signature is an invention of death, in fact,
          like words
themselves. Anatomie des menschen or untermenschen?—
          semantics too
are life or deadly. And legacy. In Fig. 321: legacy parallels
          legs
the way a willow in a Viennese garden affirms and denies the city with its
          branches. What branch
am I and where do the veins in my left and right hands
          coalesce
on their long journey back to
          the heart?
Exquisite drawings make carefully sought answers
          almost too precise.
Did the anatomists ever climb out of themselves to watch from
          above, from
dorsal then ventral view, ever survey
          their desks
with watercolors, cadavers, surrounding brushes, pencils, palettes
          also
scalpels, forceps, occasionally drawn into view? This intersection of craft and thought,
          body at
the center, accretes meaning with every blot, every nib, I begin
          to smell
          the flesh
          as it gets
          torn away,
          layers—
          lips and
          labia—
          wettest
          in life
          sourest
          in death
          but not
          to be mis-
          taken for
          protest
as my own many-times-great grandfather, grandson of a
         Useful Jew
was the first man to apply current to the brain, to cortices of Prussian soldiers
         with
already-fractured skulls. And the first Jew to win a Nobel prize.
         Also kin.
Called Adolf. Discovered barbituric acid, from which all
         barbiturates
are still made—not coincident—Nobel himself invented
         dynamite,
the merchant of death is dead his premature obituary read before he invented
         the prize:
         for the advancement
         of; for me and
         for; for four
         dismissed; for
         sciens, scientis;
         for the opposite
         of ephemera;
         for the lusty;
         for illustrators;
         for the
         illustrated;
         for the illustrious;
         for the luster
         on the back of a man
waiting to enter the gas chamber. The lights are also hot on the withers
        of a filly
on a conveyor belt in the modern abattoir. She might shiver. He
       will not.
Turn a page and you will wonder what scalding bronze poured down your
       trachea
might feel like. I feel it now. I let it harden and if you tear my flesh
       away you will
do me a favor because Harvard Medical School now boasts a four-to-one
       student-to-cadaver
ratio and there is a waitlist to donate. A waitlist to donate while Burke and Hare’s
       death masks
wink to each other over clemency in a museum
       overseas.
Turn a page and you might hear—crunch—the sound
       of a stack of paper
cut by a guillotine—crunch—might hear 1,871 slices—
       crunch—into
the axial plane of a man who killed a man and after 12 years
       in a cell
was injected, killed. He had offered to be sliced into
       millimeter-thick
sheets yielding 65 gigabytes of images which demand more than 8
       Macbooks
to view. Sign me up. I too will get immortal as
       we build
cathedrals for relics before worship. Now we have a rose window
       to replace the old
a better newer thinner millimeter-thin stained plastinate made from
       a cross-section
of a noble condemned who gave his body to Science and possibly
       truth.
The wrist slices might replace our Eucharist, the priest
       must serve
them as the wardens served two
       requested
cheeseburgers the night of to the to-be-sliced who
       refused them.
Who is my creator or yours? Fig. 378. According to the Uniform
       Anatomical Gift
Act the skin binds a book, which would be beautiful if
       true by
the law of collateral damage.


 

Volume One. Head and Neck. Making love I wonder were they thinking
                                                                                  of it
of the end as I do each time? The red of eight years
                                                                                softed pale
by last three months, by prison, now the pink of the skin between
                                                                                  my thumb
and forefinger, almost translucent, not transparent, dumb with
                                                                                  effort stretched
in two directions, comfortable when rounded against this cylinder, pressed
                                                                                  against
the intimate, inanimate, against all that stands too tall against liberty.
                                                                                  I hear their
sighs with me and go to them. Hear the pink and read red as the red
                                                                                  orchestra,
brilliant, uncaptured, never watercolor. Something flowers
                                                                                  in her.
So rarely are women criminals we know little about female
                                                                                  parts
so rarely, in fact, this Nazi anatomy is used to demonstrate that
                                                                                  rape
itself is contraception. Yes someone actually believes that and
                                                                                  he lives
a short flight from me, a flight to get on which I wouldn’t even
                                                                                  get
frisked. Frisking is important as that stern airport security woman in Amsterdam, tight burnt orange with                                                                                   buttons. Ran her hands all
                                                                                  over concentrated two fingers on my
                                                                                  labia, pressed hard
                                                                                  into them and
I think of her when I slip into kilt and roll the waistband
                                                                                  to make
hem clear keen knees more cleanly, unstuck to the slashes on the backs
                                                                                  of them.
How clean and tired the world in which we learn from kin alone
                                                                                  clean, beautiful—
tired. Do not dissect a frozen fetal pig, delivered from a gray warehouse
                                                                                  to your
navy and gray kilted and pressed classroom. Slice open the pregnant one
                                                                                  digging
for truffles in your yard, flip it over and make one long clean cut along its pink-gray
                                                                                  underbelly
the squeals will be enveloped by history the hungry shadow, the amoeba emerging
                                                                                  from your
sternum in these moments for these sounds and scents, reach
                                                                                  through
the reddest red and fish out the fetus, relish the warpaint
                                                                                  staining
your kilt, make holy stigmata on palms and left rib, laugh
                                                                                  and lie
on the lawn. Like Manet you will be loathed for the correct
                                                                                  placement
of the heart. Cut the umbilical cord and you can do
                                                                                  science.
History and men enjoy a peace they somehow feel they earned 
                                                                                  by buying

bonds or listening to a speech. Remarkable meaning is accessible
                                                                                  by private jet
as there is no difference between holding bonds and holding
                                                                                  someone
in them. A bond is a promise to someday release, asking
                                                                                  how
to find meaning in such a world misses the point entirely.
                                                                                  This
is meaning—spontaneous, organized into new meaning
                                                                                  as currency
wanders from cigarette to bully mark in camps nearby and across
                                                                                  the continent
as exactly one thought arranges itself into exactly one action across
                                                                                  time
                                                                                  into
                                                                                  crimes
                                                                                  bigger than
                                                                                  we ever meant
                                                                                  to contain.
As if Sikhs would give away cured meat for free forever. As if
                                                                                  there
were such a thing as death support. As if sex were always a moral
                                                                                  act.
Our necks sticking to hair, hair standing in for veins, veins for arteries,
                                                                                  are bloodless
as carefully drawn legacy, wan as encephalon drawn in an
                                                                                  anatomy book.
Something flowers in her. I feel it too. They lust for life,
                                                                                  believe:
Believe with me in the just time that lets everything ripen.




Volume Three, index,
University of Vienna
Medical Hospital
and Uncle Johannes
in the premature
birth ward
we cannot speak
their ears
fine as thumb-
knuckles
to whisper is to
make sounds without
vibrating
the strings
in the neck
but to push
with breath
a thought—
non-human
cooperative
species known
to whisper—
there are two—
cotton-top
tamarins and
barbastelle bats
charge pursuit
with sonar
and whisper
to avoid
detection by
eared moth prey
and when does
it begin this life?
A sonogram or as
we once believed
if eyes were sealed
the fetus cannot
become—
the shorter the cervix
the greater the risk.
Do you know
the form of your curl
at twenty-three
weeks—
what a privilege
it is to palm such
vastness?
I—
must resuscitate
regardless of
guardian wish.




Notes on Pernkopf Atlas

Lines in italics were lifted from the following texts: Helmut Ferner’s Preface to the W.B.
Saunders Company 1964 Edition of the Atlas of Topographical and Applied Human Anatomy by
Eduard Pernkopf; “To and From the Guillotine” a poem written by Clara Leiser in the memory of
Mildred and Arvid Harnack; and a stolperstein that stands in memorial for Libertas and Harro
Schultze-Boysen.