Poetry by Paul Hamill: The Students of Dissection Praise the Donors of Bodies

We have become more intimate with you

Than lovers, had more mastery of your limbs

Than childhood taught you. Once you looked inside

Your spirit, offered your heart to someone dear.   

Now you have let us strangers heft that heart

And open up your bony house of sighs.


No patient will be patient at our probes

As you were! May your silence be the mirror

That tells us that the living are unopened,

With pains and hopes like ours, which flow and pulse. 

May your serenity beneath our touch

Foretell the peace of healing we would bring.


We pledge the sacred anonymity

That sees the ill or health of friend or foe

With the cool eye that sketched your lungs, your spleen.

Like the Samaritan, we will dismount

To help without prejudgment, unembarrassed,

Not weighing who is worthy, as you have not.


“The rising juniors in physical therapy learn human anatomy by human dissection at the Rochester campus. After their course, they have a ceremony of silent thanks for those whose bodies they have been allowed to explore, and in some years have planted a tree.”   —Paul Hamill 

Former IC associate provost Paul Hamill is Ithaca College’s director of academic funding and special programs, and the current Tompkins County poet laureate. His published works include narratives, meditations, monologues, and poetry collections. He is the parent of Stephen Hamill ’98 and Katie Hamill ’05 and stepparent of Christopher Colongeli ’03. In this issue he has another poem, "Snow Sermon."