Friday, February 7, 2020

Trauma Analysis

“daliegt der ganze Unterschied”

How the bones bore it
Holds the clues forensics needs
To tell a sequence,

Which fractures came first 
And how, and was there enough
Time to heal between,

Enough for scarring?
We will begin with a scene
And end with a scene,

Bare-boned narration.
(Between scenes—reconstruction
And exposition.)

Scene one: plump baby 
Crawling through high summer grass,
Gummily grinning,

Halo of dark curls,
Left arm in a plaster cast.
Odd detail, that’s all.

This kid is lucky.
He will get medical care.
He will be well fed.

His bones will be set
By orthopedic surgeons,
Set and set again.

A simple x-ray
Will reveal how well he’s healed
And how many times.

With his parents’ help
He will sail through school, despite
Frequent absences.

He will have options.
He’s a male American.
He’s cheerful. He’s white.

This is not the end.
He will grow up. He will work.
He will marry twice.

The bones keep healing,
The cumulative effect
Twisty nonetheless.

Surgeons add metal.
Surgeons cut old metal out.
Scars get hard to count.

Decades to go yet.
He arrives at fatherhood
Late, but he gets there.

This kid is lucky.
Despite mixed tenses, he finds
Time to read and write.

The forensic arts
Love their counterfactuals.
What would he look like

If reconstructed
As if he’d never broken?
Clean-limbed? Tall? Still white.

This kid is lucky.
The breaks will accumulate 

But regularly
Enough he can recover,
Mostly, between them.

Note the spiral tracks,
The exquisite layering
Of the injuries,

Like a palimpsest 
In which the parchment itself
Scraped away each text,

Not quite completely.
Next to blank reconstructions
Of the unbroken,

The reconstruction
Of the broken is haunted
With whispering ghosts.

And now he’s searching
For a closing scene to show,
But he’s not quite done.

Stories end—lives don’t,
Not while still inside of one.
Present what has been

Or what could happen?
An unusually small man,
Legs like random twigs,

Arms like random twigs,
Makes small hops on black crutches
Through bronze winter grass.

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