Plain China

An Afternoon at the Mütter Museum for Anatomical Anomalies

by Sierra Eckert · Swarthmore COllege
Hand, Justin Miller · Grinnell College

Soap

woman

lives here,

shares a room

with wax dolls, giants, dwarves.

Caked in woman flesh, she dreams (open mouthed)

of trying on the face in jelly hanging next to President Cleveland’s tumor

but her fixed jaws say nothing. A twin fetus contorts its lips, cries at its

        other half, my side of the jar.

The mother holds the boy’s hand, stares at the glass reflection, mouth open

        slightly, a look she’ll see later on her husband’s face if she says

        where she spent the afternoon with their son.

So maybe it wasn’t this place and maybe it was an art museum; she’ll

        say nothing about the thigh-skin bound books,

afterwards she won’t say they were hungry, won’t say the chicken

        tasted good.

A tug at her jacket, a look mom,

here the mother sees he’s

peering at something

like him,

small,

real.

 


 

Coda:

This poem follows the structure of the Fibonacci sequence — 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8,… — in which each term is the sum of the two previous. This “divine” ratio occurs in nature’s perfect forms: shells, waves, flowers, musical chords, and the human body.

About the Author

Sierra Eckert · Swarthmore COllege

Sierra Eckert is a junior at Swarthmore, where she studies English literature, creative writing, and mathematics. When she’s not writing, she works as a telescope operator and edits Swarthmore’s literary magazine, Nacht. Her poems have appeared in Philadelphia Stories, Small Craft Warnings, and The Susquehanna Review. Her poem first appeared in Small Craft Warnings.

About the Artist

Justin Miller · Grinnell College

Justin Miller received a B.A. in math from Grinnell. He currently lives in Chicago, “teaching li’l snotpickers how to do words good.” Hand first appeared in The Grinnell Review.