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Duckert the Effeminate, Zephyr-Like Surgeon

ISSUE:  Winter 1990

A kind of resurrection, a real mess, a side of beef
heaves by on a hook. It’s business as usual
at a meatpacking plant: red-floor slime, some human
blood. Conveyor belts bear off steaks, fingerparts,
all possible succulents, as one. Choppers and buzzsaws
provide oblivion, white noise, but outside it’s animal
calm, the stench of stockyards. At dawn pink clouds
preside over cud-chewing. Once I drove through
Sioux Falls, South Dakota and held my nose.


Duckert breezes into the exam room, long white coat
a wake of cologne. Briefly, the nurse flirts.
Duckert wants to “debulk” the tumor in my dad’s neck.

He explains the risks, tells us the facts: “best chance
for long-term survival.” Then the decision is
out of his hands: fingers as fine as cricket

cage bars, cuticles perfect like hummingbird hymens.
He is precise, the room air-conditioned. Silk socks
encase his ballerina’s ankles: sheer purple.


Is Duckert more like a worker in a meatpacking plant
or my old self, holding its nose, wishing elsewhere?
He is the worst of both, I think: brutal, aloof.

I can see him scrubbing up and putting on his pale
green mask. It goes in and out (slow breath, slow
breath) as the scalpel descends toward the dotted line.

He prolongs the delicate moment (clothes neatly folded
in the next room, Rolex ticking in the toe of a shoe).
Then he slices. Then he comes to life.


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