There is a country in my missing womb—a frontier
myth. The lesson here is not of a woman;
think bigger: of striving, of servitude, of witches.
In my belly, in that barren scape, is a public square
where they carried out hangings, erected monuments
to the hangers. Is a trail blazed across someone else’s
land. Is the name I gave something I had no right to own.
There is a history of animal offerings there. Of trespasses.
A great table where men made virgin sacrifices
to old gods, wrong ones. This is a country of missing books.
Lessons unstudied. In life, I learned enough to know
that my body was a palimpsest. That this missing
thing they once called “animal” was chained and starved
long before my time, and repeatedly. That it became sunless, silent
as a blunted knife. Take this emptiness under your scalpel. Open it
like any other organ, to know it. But when they come
for the pinning, do not let on: name it hysteria, call it absence.

Lisa Kerr Dunn is a Professor in the Writing Center at the Medical University of South Carolina, where she is also Director of the new Office of Humanities. She edited the collection Mysterious Medicine: The Doctor-Scientist Tales of Hawthorne and Poe and is the author of a new young readers' chapter book, Dreaming with Animals: Anna Hyatt Huntington and Brookgreen Gardens. She's at work on a poetry collection about her experiences as a cervical cancer survivor.