Pink and Brown

Pink and Brown

The freshest brains are still pink
And I try to think that it’s like steak,
Where the red isn’t really blood
And we don’t call it cow
So isn’t dead, because it never lived

The frozen brains are even brighter-colored
Like summer rocket-ship popsicles
Except you can’t handle them without gloves
Not for the cold, but for the blood
And anyway, who knows what dirty, infectious secrets are lurking in there

Other brains are bathed inside
Sugar and azide, or formaldehyde
Thoughts and lovers and secrets leaking out
And coloring the bath brown
No bright colors here
It’s safer that way
Since the bath kills bacteria
And whatever personality a dead brain can hold

And then there are the brains in wax
Like so many bees that will never hatch
These are the only ones I touch
The only hint of a person
Is a grey blemish on the white

These are the ones they slice
Blade slipping across slick wax
Throwing off dust and dreams
To make a slide for the microscope

Half the dust is wax
And half of it is people
Don’t breathe it in

It may sound weirdly intimate,
looking at Edith or Don’s brain under a microscope
But when you look too close
All you see is red dyes and slow death
I guess that’s not where the secrets live

I’m lucky my dad is a social psychologist
And not the antisocial kind who collects brains
I met one of that kind the other day,
One day she brought her kid into work
He saw the brains, and thought about them for two months
Until he told her “When I die, I don’t want to give anyone my brain,”
Five years is too young to worry about giving yourself to anyone

When my dad brought me to work all I did was look at pictures of smiling people

But now I see brains everywhere
Even in those smiling pictures
Grey-and-red globs ignoring me on the T
Or staring at me in a bar
While my secret fears bleed out

When too many people come together,
All our secrets bleed out into the city
And turn the air a smoggy brown

To My Editor

To My Editor

Downtwn Chicago, Last MLK Weekend

Downtwn Chicago, Last MLK Weekend