X-ray of the erect lumbar spine with a S-convex scoliosis

Lucien Monfils

Subtle Anatomy


An arm is the spine of an angel wing,
cracked at the elbow. Webbed for gliding once,
we could leap off of cliff or bridge or tower
and saw no problem with a leap of faith.
What happened to it? Ask the suicide.
After the battle in heaven, the good angels,
precursors to the Turks who shamed their captives,
carved and carted off those wings—atrocious—
a mound of wings more chilling than a mound
of skulls: in this case, the contributors
could watch the ground tumor swell. So you see
we have some angel in us, even if
it’s the bedeviled kind, stripped of its wings
like a drunk pilot, out of service.

Before Eve met the serpent, she was fleshier
than even Rubens’s palette could stomach
and spineless, literally. The serpent
dove in her through the nest-hole anus
until the scorpion-stinger coccyx
slurped in too, and she sheathed him whole.
He straightened her, the breath in a balloon,
into this human posture of rebellion,
this upright and bipedal challenge.
Settled, the serpent sent nerves everywhere,
claiming each inch of her with senses.
Not with an apple but an apple’s taste
the serpent ruined her, fossilizing
to the vertebral column. So you see
we have some devil in us too
and dead center at that
commanding everything.


previously published in The Journal of the AMA