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The Blind Surgeon



A lottery determines selection

As one of his patients. The ill

Register at a website and log in

To track their application status,

Imagining the sealed envelope icon

And the first line of the message

Previewing its contents: “We are pleased

To inform you….” Meanwhile, they find

Videos, download podcasts: the blind

Surgeon led into the operating

Theater, handling scalpels and forceps

Without the halting gestures

Of the sightless, sliding fingers behind

The stem of a blade, cradling it

In his palm’s in-spiraling cushions

And, approaching the table, breaking

Away from the nurse guiding

His elbow. He traces lines against

The patient, no gloves, finger ridges

Ascertaining the terrain, contrasting it

To the landscape in his mind, itself drawn

From touching: tiers and diagonals

Of topographic points of Braille

Medical texts. He is said to locate

Troubled regions by temperature

Alterations, resistance posed by hairs

To the fleshy, bellying heel at the base of his thumb.


His Iowa City or Paris, Providence

Or Buenos Aires, bears no resemblance

To the places we know. Deposited in his

Versions of them, we would grow

Panicked in moments, our senses offended

By strangeness. Anatomy is also

A city and his cities have the structure

Of music. Rhythm is the central

Organizing principle; he hears beyond

Cycling events—systole and diastole—

To smaller, odd-patterned sounds: nerve supplies

To target muscles cancelling. Which are

The phenomena that pair and recur

In atrophy’s onset? He leans closer

As the patient registers warmth

From his breath roll across, dissolve along

Her shoulder. A tower’s banking exterior

Conceals the broken stair that drops the foot—

Dangling in mid-air—the spiral ascent

Arrested. His hand, twisting along the chest

Wall, recoils in shock, having detected—

What? A flaw? Anomaly? Or variation

That will repeat at a point still unheard?

Is it a tumor or the micropolis of a metastasis?


On turquoise surgical drapes

The excavated object sits

And vibrates. It is a circle,

The circumference engraved

With lines that disintegrate

Into dross clinging to it like

Plaque or silicate, partially sealing

The oval. Ring, artifact,

De-sculpted mass, it migrates

Centimeters with each pulse

Of the buzz that agitates

Its guts. A corporeal Nautilus,

concludes the blind surgeon,

Paradoxically raising it to a lamp.

Its host’s sole remnant, the flesh

Having abandoned it. Like the soul,

A poor substitute for the senses.

An externalization of the life,

Its structure, not its presence,

When the larval occupant has dragged

Itself off, its moist, glistening skin

Dulling and flaking in the sun,

The brown and orange-tinged

Lug nut pattern on its back draining.


A magician gyrates a mylar

Strip on a rod. Tomatoes proliferate

In the lot between the liquor and lottery

Ticket store and the church. Glass

Shark’s fins from hammered

Windows shimmer, in soil squandered.

Between the rears of the one-

Storey buildings the drainage trench:

Stiff grasses plug the concrete

Seams and blossom in fractures.


It is festival day in Detroit.


In a scratched plexi-plate

Bus stop pod a child in stasis

Is linked to a woman and a balloon.

He looks past trickling drops

Of traffic, for the tilting cylinder

Of the bus. Through its windows

He’ll watch the city: curb-

Side, discarded pillows

He mistakes for snow piles in May.

The blind surgeon gleans

From probing the fifth wrinkle

In the temple this scene which

Bears the contours of analysis

And anger at the economic

Incentives of neglect.


Three Gorges Dam…


In the collapsed house half-

Buried, the photographer’s flash

Snatches depth: the blanked faces

Of the squatters peering out

Through breaks in the planks

Appear at the same level as the entire

Exterior, and the presences behind them

Are not behind them; a portion of a chin,

Ear, shoulder, is flattened out,

Flush with their expressions. Climb up

The secret chute, and back

Out onto the rubble path

Of the eradicated street. Does only the façade

Remain—the slope of crumbled stone

Bisects the door—or is the structure set

Deep into the wreck? All frames are filled

With layered stone and sheetrock;

Are the walls and the windows one? The heaped slabs

Of concrete, are a hearth, the flames

Liquid emanations of the orange, rusted

Rebars, reaching out into air like insect

Feelers, their twisted, waffled flesh.

Down what used to be the high street a donkey

Ambles and the light is gray with the powders

Of high-volume transformation.


History of the burning city…


The spires like strings

Vibrating with light,

Reflect in the lake

That precedes the skyline.


Poke a wall and the cinders

Defy gravity, rise upward—

Orange fringe on a black flake

Winking out to gray ash.


He draws his fingers away:

They’ve played an end, a cleansing,

A redistribution of energy,

An awakening, a forgetting.


In morgues, in airport

Concourses, he is inebriated

By waves radiated

Off bodies in transformation.


The smudge between bracketed

To and from: chalk lined

With soft grooves

Of the thumb rubbing out—


His touch overhears

The thoughts of selves

Before an awareness

Their change has consolidated.


Yet the gentle mercies

Of secrets kept from those

Who must know them

Becomes pure malice:


He speaks never a diagnosis

But a prospect, a summary

Of chance. He’s traced the streets;

He projects inundation’s path,


How the fire will flee like animus

After its next fuel source.

Wind-fanned flame-spines

Ribbing an underpinning.


They thin to blurred, heat-screen

Transparent and watery, spectral blue….

The patient wakes and remembers

Of his passage only snippets:


She feels the weight of a choice:

This pocketed object wired

To reverberate: did I produce it

Or is mine because I  picked it out?

Three Dots