Kim Roberts

Discovered by Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815)

Come, Doctor,
with your iron rods,
your magnetized water,
and bathe me. Touch me
with your fingertips,
and spark my animal essence.
Tune the fluid of my soul.

Across planetary space
electricity leaps,
the vital ether that sustains
our human organs.
In balance, the soul transmits
freely an ecstatic song.
Unbalanced, the ether
loses its harmony, harbors
sickness and decay.

I want to be healed!
Bring on your devices,
strap me in your wires. Bewitch.
Make the dry channels surge
as they once did, call down
the very powers of the black planets.
Mesmerize me.


The National Museum of Health and Medicine, Washington, DC

Nearly four feet tall, the woman,
                       carved from wood,
           painted and waxed,

has bendable joints.
                       Beneath the wooden

her flesh has been stripped
                       to reveal removable organs,
           liver, kidney, colon, all—

painted mauve and ruby and ocher
                       and labeled carefully
           in kanji.

What magic do you hoard, woman,
                       what secret lore
           in your ankles and knuckles,

in your jape and joke,
                       your vapor?
           The face is calm, eyes

open, but not too wide,
                       eyelids giving
           a languorous gaze

that must have reassured
                       the clients who came
           to point at where they hurt,

hoping a pill or salve
                       the apothecary mixed
           in his wide-mouthed alabaster mortar

could relieve the pains
                       in their own chests,
           return them to their days—

like wooden shapes so neatly classed,
                       so precisely ordered—
           healed and whole.