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During the Autopsy
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"She hid it well," they say, gathered around the body. Some standing
in the gallery think of their god, big as an ox, and are thankful

for once not to be the chosen one. Her stomach opened to reveal
the tree growing inside her, seeming to take root near the navel,

branching out between the ribs. Thick bark falling away under
the scalpel. A man worries a pair of bats from her throat. Wings

raw from rubbing against the wood, panicky. Flesh houses
milk-white bulbs, new life, pale like her throat, a nice one.

A throat to be stroked nightly by some woodsman. And the bats
are the most vibrant black the man has ever seen. Their wings

seem to be living separately from their bodies, trying to detach.
And so he pictures the woman in the same light, tree its own

creature, not hers, not her, as he takes a bone saw to a branch,
or, with the smaller ones, snaps them off with his hands.

One must, at times, learn to ignore the body. In a dream
the man was once patron saint of ships. Not only did he build

the most seaworthy ships of his small town, but he blessed
all the vessels in the shipyard. Walking from wood hull to wood

hull, he would press his hands against them, speak to them with his
palms. And they would speak back. The man would carry their

stories with him from sleep, so that, in the morning, his hands were
still full with them, seemed to anchor him to the mattress, hands

heavy with whale bones and kelp nests. With crates of rotting
fruit, the smell of too many men together, skin sloughing off

like flakes of sel de mer. And the man had forgotten all this, until
his hands were around the trunk, growing like his own thigh,

and he could see each layer of the cut-into wood, which looked
not unlike each layer of the thick skin of the belly, the woman

not a woman, but a tree now. The tree, with his hands around it,
sang into him a high-pitched song, song of a siren, a woman's

voice asking to be returned to the sea. Any sea. And as he
washed his hands after, thorough as always, as he walked

home in the rain to his wife. As he drank the glass of water
she had poured him from a clay pitcher, he could feel that voice

in his throat, and that night he woke—suddenly, salt water
covering his entire body—to that other woman's song.

Corey Van Landingham  

Corey Van Landingham recently completed her MFA at Purdue University, where she was a poetry editor for Sycamore Review. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in AGNI, Best New Poets 2012, and Hayden's Ferry Review. In January, she won the 2013 OSU Press/The Journal Award in Poetry for Antidote. She lives in Houston, Texas.

Copyright © 2013 Louisiana State University Press
Project MUSE® - View Citation
Corey Van Landingham. "During the Autopsy." Southern Review 49.2 (2013): 308-309. Project MUSE. Web. 10 Apr. 2013. <http://muse.jhu.edu/>.
Landingham, C. V.(2013). During the Autopsy. Southern Review 49(2), 308-309. Louisiana State University Press. Retrieved April 10, 2013, from Project MUSE database.
Corey Van Landingham. "During the Autopsy." Southern Review 49, no. 2 (2013): 308-309. http://muse.jhu.edu/ (accessed April 10, 2013).
T1 - During the Autopsy
A1 - Corey Van Landingham
JF - Southern Review
VL - 49
IS - 2
SP - 308
EP - 309
PY - 2013
PB - Louisiana State University Press
SN - 2168-5541
UR - http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/southern_review/v049/49.2.van-landingham.html
N1 - Volume 49, Number 2, Spring 2013
ER -


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