A plume from the electrocautery disperses its cancerous fragrance as

incense on the altar

of our achievement.

A blue wall of crisp, disposable cloth separates

me from the high priest of the operating

room:

She whose lot it is to offer incense by carving the flesh

of the willing.

Their screams used to pierce the silent hallways that took them far away

from the wards,

long before this particular incense first blossomed from a motionless body.

Progress gleams and reassures the initiates.

I keep them still, comfortable,

noiseless, and they rest

strapped to the soft-enough altar.

Now we hold a silent center stage.

The victims don’t even bleat.

We cut and burn in our sterile sanctuaries

That, in truth, aren’t quiet at all;

They pulse with music, our celebration pushing doubts

Down and out of mind.

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