Philip Dacey

Thomas Eakins: Professor of Anatomy

Before my tenure, the practice was to cut off
the flag and its pair of nested eggs
from every male cadaver before the day’s lesson
lest any young lady, seeing, gag.
Better than a loin-cloth, a knife kept her safe
from the truth. I left the whole toolbox on.

The central fact must appear in its low dress
on the dissecting table, not tricked out
in elaborate costume, a heated guess.
Imagine the stitches, the puckered skin.
I told them science was the mother of art.

Hands rose to eyes, the man’s sex as good as gone.
Its absence would only set it there the more,
to grow, and prosper, a flower, or nightmare.