unused scalpels


“somewhere, there is a museum of unfinished surgeries.” – Dylan Garity

the man who runs this place wears blue Nikes.
he keeps them clean for the most part, aside
from the occasional bloodstain. it is never silent 
here, just the quiet of machine hums and ghost 
screams. a fresco of chipped teeth and half-beating 
hearts hides beneath the clutter of 

a solitary room up seven flights of stairs. there is
a file cabinet of medical textbooks. the spines are 
only half-woven, the paper slanted and spilling from 
the seams. they say that the world ends this way:
all sterile memories and abandoned weaponry. 

on the third floor, we are strolling hand-in-hand in search 
of unused scalpels when you point at a half-empty IV bag 
with wires still attached. I begin to wonder when all the 
fractions will stop multiplying. 

is this, then, how bed sheets feel when they have
holes in them? or, rather, do the bodies they hold
have holes? when air escapes, it has a tendency
to curl southward. gravity is the man with the blue
Nikes and sporadic bloodstains; theoretically stagnant. 

physics is the explanation of movement and surgeons
are the conductors of the electricity keeping this place
on-pulse. you are the boy who grips a knife when he runs.

a licensed practitioner once told me that anesthesia wears 
off quicker than heartache, that medicine is a refined art but
a doused washcloth undresses a wound. so i let go of your
hand and we tour it alone, here between the walls that are
home to every dormant body. 

all shades of skin are accounted for, every eye pigment 
documented and filed on the seventh floor. the man with 
the blue Nikes switches coffee for morphine and he can do 
it, too, because that is the way wrists move: a pulse, 
gentle at first, then a feverish one and again, the world
ends when we cannot find an unused scalpel, when we
choose not to remember the taste of our own shivering skin. 

once, Picasso was asked what his paintings meant and
he said “do you ever know what the birds are singing?” 
you and i play hopscotch on the porcelain tiles and forget 
our locker combinations. we find the missing arms of all 
the Greek sculptures and give them to the man with the 
blue Nikes and again, we pay homage to the third floor,

continue our quest for unused scalpels, not yet sure what we will 
do if we ever find them but all we know is half-empty IV bags are 
the most romantic pieces of artwork in this entire institution. our 
hands, they have a knack for finding each other after just a few hours 
and catching up on all the exhibits they caressed alone. 

incompletion is the root of all restlessness. to be a surgeon is 
difficult but to be a patient is virtuous, so we taught our hands the 
waiting game: the room will break and someone will fill all the wrong
IV bags but if we greet stillness, we will learn how to read crooked 
textbooks. we will not care about Picasso’s intent, only our own, and
we will find a pair of bloodstained Nikes waiting for us to come home.


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