Dissection

I can trace the lineage as far back as my great-great-grandfather and his daughter and her husband, followed by their son and his son, both surgeons.

“Born to Cut,” says the t-shirt in the old photograph of my father on his 40th birthday.

Like them, I sometimes think of myself as a healer, wielding the pen instead of the knife, but this month, I find myself dissecting instead of crafting, cutting into pieces each of the previous drafts of the body of work I began 7 winters ago.

More than a dozen bodies are lined up in this way, some fully formed, others swiftly abandoned, and I’ve read that this many drafts is a sure sign of doom.

Like the organs stored in separate containers on the shelves of the morgue where I worked the summer I was 16, I am sorting parts by date or theme or person or place, like the plane accident that resulted in the jars that I looked toward each afternoon as I rinsed formaldehyde from surgical tissue at the sink, occasionally coming across a thyroid or a prostate, a fetus or a breast.

Cutting into the work like this makes me uncertain. Am I a murderer, a madman, a mortician? Or am I a doctor, a an artist, an artisan?

After the physician cuts, the lab tech dissects, preparing a specimen for testing–benign or malignant?

I’d like to think that no such test exists for art, but I’d also like to think that I might find myself, as my ancestors did, mastering craft in service to a higher calling.

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