1632 c/o Scott Riley Irvine

The Divine Hand, on the Arm Longer than the Other

The Wrist

Today is dedicated to the hand, its tendons, the pulp gleaned from the forearm.

Dr. Tulp has discreetly concealed the parts he had severed in sessions prior. The cadaver appears newly deceased, except that it has no neck. One arm is longer than the other. The chest is distended and swollen, the color of fly-blown light. Men in black cloaks jostle with one another for a seat as the Vesalius of Amsterdam takes his place at the center of the room. The event begins as an uproarious one. Tulp calms them to a low murmur. Their syncopated breath begins to form tides, like waves tethered to the moon’s pull.

Curling about his stature.

This is a ritual. This is Holland’s bloody church.

Tulp is dizzy from the smell, the cadaver nearing five days old. They leave it beneath several blankets in a back alleyway. The cold has kept rot from gutting what we need of it. The armored tones of an organ fledge the auditorium with deep, brown plumage. The doctor excuses himself from the opening prayer. He ignores the whispered offers of company. He escapes down hallways receding infinitely.

A student has left parchment scattered in the atrium. On them are sketches of Tulp performing surgery. Extracting organs. Striking poses during lectures he wished now that he hadn’t. And the skeletal outlines of his associates, his colleagues, drawn deeper and with darker shades, mouths frothing in his shadow, vultures perched around the cadaver. Tulp licks the creases for the taste of dead skin cells. Tulp folds the parchment into tiny squares. He wants to give them to a professional artist. He wants to burn them in his garden with the portrait of his father.

Tulp has returned, visibly shaken. Tulp has become conscious of his posture. He allows each of his movements several minutes longer. He buttons his gaze sidelong to the angle in which he had been drawn. The artist is among them, he thinks. Tulp’s face is among his pages. The cadaver’s broad feet. The men’s reticella collars, like wilted flowers on the operating floor.

The Elbow

We believe in redemption. Good born from the bad. The hanged man is allowing God's fluency in engineering to be revealed to us. It comes in wet ribbons from out of his mouth.

We are told the hands are God’s greatest of gifts. Great tact has been taken to present them as such. The cadaver’s hands were carefully manicured, given a thin coat of makeup, rosied around the knuckles. We had witnessed the cadaver’s execution. We knew him to be loud. An admirer of young girls. He fell from the gallows so that he may be consecrated by the scalpel.

We have seen his chest splintered into two halves. We praised our Lord for giving us symmetry. We have seen his neck part so easily from the torso. We praised our Lord for our fragility.

I’m a message from the brain. I send it here. His finger moves like so.

There is only the sound of a collective scratching of silverpoint to collagen. Unlit patches painted across the outer circumference of the auditorium. By understanding the body, we understand Him. We fasten ourselves to the bowing of the radial artery at the elbow. We imbibe ourselves with the protein of its wiring. The caustic sheen of the musculature ruptures with unbound intricacies. We don’t understand what Tulp is saying. We understand completely. We glorify him who glorifies our God, and in glorifying the body that allows him the organs, the blood, the dark purple hues beneath the flesh – we glorify ourselves.