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poetry Operating on the Body Politic

New York poet Philip Fried makes a diagnosis of brain damage to explain the body politic of a certain politician with orange hair.


Operating on the Body Politic

By Philip Fried

The micro-surgeon sits in the waiting room

while his hands, now huge and free of him, prepare

to operate on the body politic.

Diagnosis: cancer already metastasizing

to stage 5. There's little time to spare.

After a surgeon's assistant makes the incision,

the hands begin by pre-empting visitors,

inserting bouquets of roses into the body

cavity ... no time ... the obsequies

must be intoned before the resurrection.

In a procedure guided by teleprompter,

agile fingers use avant-garde techniques

to palpate ... it's so urgent ... the limbic system,

which encircles the brainstem in a wishbone shape.

Rumors of cancer were greatly exaggerated.

But psychosurgery has penetrated

to aggression's holy grail, the amygdala,

where electrical stimulation can induce—

and here the nurses fail to check or balance—

ferocious howls from the old mammalian brain.

The hands to the micro-surgeon, "No time to spare!

Success! We've given a new voice to the older,

too-often-overlooked sub-cortical regions.

Now to excise the elites of the neo-cortex!"

Hands that strewed roses pat the orange hair.

Philip Fried's most recent book, his seventh, is Squaring the Circle (Salmon, 2017). "Operating on the Body Politic" comes from a new manuscript titled Among the Gliesians. Web site: