We are in the medical museum, after hours,
riffling through all the rooms locked to visitors
in the damp limestone basement.
In one room, a glass case filled with vulvas,
each one pointed and parted towards
the viewer: butterflied labia
held pinned by disembodied purple
hands, as though the entomologist
was also caught mid-taxonomy.
It was a woman, Marjorie Winslow,
who sculpted the models, who sat
quietly during exams and watched
women birthing, dying, watched
cancerous growths snipped off
and a gloved hand plucking a uterus out
like a pear off a tree. Marjorie’s hands
in her lap, watching the surgeons purple-gloved
hands in the depths of an unknown woman.
Later, by memory, Marjorie would carve
thighs, vulva, trauma, her hands holding
stories already growing cold.
She made skin like an old God,
used pebbles and orange peels
like dust and ribs
sewed on each hair,
embroidered life into flesh.
Everyone will remain
unnamed – even Marjorie
for decades. Only these blank
legs, held open,
only the women she remembered into
lessons for young men learning
the body without the body.
Sarah Yi-Mei Tsiang
Sarah Yi-Mei Tsiang is a poet, children’s writer and teacher. Her books of poetry include Status Update (2013), which was nominated for the Pat Lowther Award, and Sweet Devilry (2011), which won the Gerald Lampert Award. She was shortlisted for the CBC poetry prize in 2019 and longlisted for the CBC poetry prize in 2018. Tsiang’s poetry has won the Arc Magazine Reader’s Choice for Poem of the Year, and was shortlisted for the Nick Blatchford Occasional Verse contest, the Bliss Carmen Poetry Award, and the Re-lit Award. Her work has also been featured in Best of the Best Canadian Poetry and many other anthologies. She is the editor of the poetry collection, Desperately Seeking Susans (2013).
The Ekphrastic Review
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