Monthly Archives: February 2011

Autopsy 101

The body on the table just beyond the glass is that of a young man—twenty-three, I later learn—who was found hanging in his closet. One of the autopsy attendants has already made the Y-incision and pulled back the layers of flesh, fat, and muscle. Next, she picks up the saw and begins cutting away the ribcage to expose the organs beneath.

The body is systematically emptied, the organs inspected, weighed, and measured. When the necessary samples have been taken, everything goes into a black plastic garbage bag that is tied shut and placed back inside the chest cavity. The incision is closed with heavy thread in large, looping stitches.

I watch two more autopsies, so several hours have passed by the time I finally emerge into the gray half-light of a dreary morning. I think about what I have seen and heard. The utter slackness of the body in death. The whine of the Stryker saw cutting through bone. The perfect slices of glistening liver.

I also think about the old Hasidic saying: “Everyone must have two pockets so that he can reach into one or the other, according to his needs. In his right pocket are to be the words ‘For my sake was the world created,’ and in the left, ‘I am dust and ashes.’” As I walk to the car, I wonder when that young man who hung himself forgot about the words in his right pocket and read only those in the left.

What I’m reading this month: Dennis Overbye’s Lonely Hearts of the Cosmos, Brian Greene’s The Hidden Reality, and Katherine Darling’s Under the Table: Saucy Tales from Culinary School.

My novel, Yard Sale, is available through Amazon.