Gunshot Fractures of Both Orbits

The exhibits are all dead, but there is range in their how-to, the ways they all went. We make our way through the museum, a cabinet of curiosities. A screaming soap lady, books bound in human skin, spines twisted by scoliosis, animal parts, failures of entire systems. There’s a wall of human skulls where he puts his hands, attempting to channel a psychic or a junkman, whoever can tell us what a physician cannot. When faced with a room of war injuries—traumatized parts of soldiers’ bodies, an arm with a thick piece of solid lead lodged between radius and ulna—we survey skulls confronted by bullets and other weaponries, artillery denoting the intersection of history and the body. I reach over, situate my hand inside his fingers, my metacarpals damp with sweat. The question isn’t, “Did it hurt” so much as, “Did the soldier have time to think about it?” Neither of us asks. This is what we look forward to: the display case, the placard, the artifact easels, fingers when we braced ourselves for forceps. People are like the objects pulled from the throats of gagging patients. This is a case of obsolete anesthetics. This is a head with two bullet holes to prove the lead went all the way through, a single shot.

Gina Keicher is an MFA candidate at Syracuse University, where she is a Creative Writing Fellow as well as the Lou Reed/Delmore Schwartz Scholar, and has won the Joyce Carol Oates Prize in Poetry. Her poems have appeared in h_ngm_n, Night Train, Poets and Artists, and are forthcoming from Harpur Palate, Ninth Letter, and Stone Canoe.