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.
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?