KR OnlinePoetry

Dissecting Blade

Every past-less child has a favorite false world:
a great plain and a bleached spine
of covered wagons creaking over grass,
or the violence of knights, or of more ancient men crouched
on dark heaths or Greek coasts around their meat
and spirit, wakeful before the morning raid
in those days when each act or object could be precisely traced:

how the sword hilt said,
Biorhtelm made me, Sigebert owns me,
as did the cup, the bridle, and the robe
each bearing their own remembered hand-to-hand,
while an appointed poet at the fire
reminded you who your father was, and why,
and the lettered sword gleamed calmly at your flank.

In the sunless dream-light of the lab,
students who once rattled plastic sabers
under rayon flags click the scalpel
bravely when they change a dulling blade
because a tool is a holy thing,
and to wield it straight is to earn your silent barrow—
students half bowing to a dead foot
with copper wire spun round the toe
staining the flesh to leaf-fall.

Laura Kolbe studies medicine at the University of Virginia. Her poetry has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, the Awl, Blackbird, Shenandoah, Smartish Pace, and elsewhere. Her fiction has appeared in the Literary Review, and her criticism has appeared in the Bookforum, Idiom, the New Yorker, and Open Letters Monthly.