Anatomy Lesson

Nellie Hill

To understand the heart
you’ve got to memorize arteries, vessels,
and which goes where, which is red
and which is blue, what’s likely to pop open–
is it in your head or behind your wings
or the one down low in the snake path
of food that winds around the tangle
of bladder, liver, spleen.

Kidneys, too, the root of the whole thing,
the seat of life — your chi,
that thrust of breath from the small of your back.
Guard it, especially in wind with damp heat rising
and those sudden storms that cool
afternoon sweat from your forehead
before time works its way in
to where thoughts become memories or dreams.

You see? At last you understand,
anatomy stacked like a ladder from your toes
right up your knees and elbows
and each footstep of a rib
until you’re in your head again
with words for every thing, each one.