‘Old Anatomical Theatre, Tartu’, a poem by Samuel Tongue

Old Anatomical Theatre, Tartu by Samuel Tongue
Published in The Lumen, Issue 1, 2014

She’s hard to see, sun blazing of the glass
but if I strain and squint
into this museum’s dark cabinet,
I can see her sepia photograph.

She lies back, arm behind her head, supine,
an artist’s survey of his reclining muse,
back arched just slightly for a better view,
the warm sweep of her breast circled with fine

shadow, her lazy hand drawing lines of sight
to a belly lattened by her pose, legs arranged
to keep the gaze insinuated, bewitched.
I read her browning caption, typed

in English, Estonian and Russian:
‘woman on a slab—killed by her lover, unknown’:
not posing but thrown, those dark strokes not shadow
but slashes, opened by steel, again and again;

some drunken, vicious, night-sharpened rage,
her mouth fallen open, suggesting a scream
stopped tight in her chest. Her open eyes gleam.
I blunt my gaze and look away.


Samuel Tongue was part of the 2010 Clydebuilt Verse Apprenticeship scheme, mentored by Liz Lochhead. He currently holds the Callan Gordon Award, part of the Scottish Book Trust’s New Scottish Writer Awards for 2013-2014, and as recently shortlisted in Magma’s Ten Line Poems Competition.

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