“On Looking at an MRI Cross-Section” by Melissa Balmain

Melissa Balmain


actual photo below

Inside my head, I learn, a horseshoe crab
stares heavenward with jumbo-olive eyes
(the pitted kind), each in an ice cream cone
webbed like a goose’s foot. Between them flies
bright looping wire. 
And past each ice cream cone, a marbled slab
of glossy, skinless chicken-off-the-bone
spreads like a wing. Behind the meat and flab?
A gown for those who like their skirts outsize
and half on fire.

So this is it: from fruit to flaming dress
hums every memory I’ve kept since birth—
each love and hate, each lesson I’ve been taught
and not ejected,
each town, cafe, or weedy patch of earth,
each brilliant scheme or idiotic thought.
In other words, it’s just the sort of mess
I’d have expected.


from Rattle #74, Winter 2021


Melissa Balmain: “After the shock of peering inside my skull, my need to write felt almost medical. Finding words for what I’d seen, and a poetic form to suit it, somehow helped me cope with the bizarreness of it all. As for the fact that the freaky object in the photo wrote the poem? Or that the ‘I’ that realized this fact is also the freaky object? I’m still wrapping my freaky object around both of those.” (web)

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