Today's poem is by R. A. Villanueva


We were well down the ventral axis
          when Father Luke noticed. Our cuts
steady through the skin, our scalpels
          already through the thin give
of the sternum. With each bullfrog
          pinned to its block and double-
pithed by nail, he had by then
          talked us clean through the lungs,
past a three-chambered heart couched
          in tissue and vascular dye. We must
have been deeper among the viscera
          when he heard us laughing,
not at the swarm of black eggs
          spilling from the oviducts to
slime the cuffs of our blazers,
          but at a phallus, jury-rigged from
foil and rubber bands hanging off the crucifix,
          hovering above a chart of light-
independent reactions. This was nothing
          like the boys lowing through recitation
their antiphon for the layman whose wife
          we heard was trampled by livestock
over trimester break. Nothing at all
          like Sister Mary being made to face
the bathhouse scene from Spartacus in slow-
          motion or her freshmen rewinding again
and again stock films of chariot drivers pitched
          from their mounts, dragged
to their ends only to float backwards,
          hands bound up once more
in the reins. The Dean of Men confessed
          he knew of no prayer or demerit
that could redeem such disgrace,
          could conceive of no greater sin
against the Corpus. Transgressors, all of you,
          he said and closed the door behind him,
refusing to look at us or the thing
          that seemed to shimmer and twitch
with each frog's reflex kick against our forceps.
          He held us there far beyond
the last bell, waiting for just one among us
          to want forgiveness or for a single boy
to take back this mockery of the body
          our Lord had made.

Copyright © 2014 R. A. Villanueva All rights reserved
from Reliquaria
University of Nebraska Press
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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