When the brain stem of a frog
is expertly snipped, the body sac slit,
skin pinned back in flaps and then
the jellies of the chest arranged
to reveal the heart, the heart itself
can be unfastened, clipped, lifted
like a grey pearl on the tip of a knife,
still trembling, and dropped in a beaker of water
where it beats alone
for the lifetime of a minute, sends plumes
of blood into suspension, then beats itself clean,
keeps on beating without brain
or aim, a small fist tightening,
forgetting, and tightening again.
The opened frog rests coolly on a wax tablet.
Gradually the heart in its jar drifts toward stillness.
My father showed me this one day
at his laboratory, afterwards wiping
his scalpel dry with alcohol. I’m not sorry
for the frog. I’m not sorry to know this.