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BooksJuly 2, 2021

The Friday Poem: What I Learnt from Aotea College’s Forensic Science Class, by Danny Bultitude

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A new poem from Wellington writer Danny Bultitude.

What I Learnt from Aotea College’s Forensic Science Class

Only offered it so we’d start to idolise the cops / some agreement with the police college next door
So we didn’t become / undesirables / like so many of our friends and parents / called scumbags
And burnouts by the cops who visited occasionally / to rebuff our questions about catching rapists
Or serial killers / like they did on TV / but never seemed to encounter / on Porirua’s slow streets.

Most memorable hour was dissecting a damp rat / to determine its cause-of-death with knifepoint
And tweezer / so unlike the American Kids / who dismantled foetal pigs / and tortured live frogs
Instead of stinking rats near-bald with freezer burn / and sweet rodent faces and such tiny hearts
They looked unreal / the coils of intestine dainty / as friendship bracelets / ribs brittle as eyelashes.

Overly eager boys stabbed with their scalpels, puncturing / grape-small lungs and amputating feet
Making the girls run / by pretending to drop entrails / down shirt-backs / into friend’s mouths
Or simply chasing them between the desks / with viscera swinging from their firm tweezer-grip
As the teacher looked on / boys will be boys / clapping their hands, yelling / that we do our work.

Nothing inside the abdomen spoke up to us / although Jess yelled “It died of a heart attack” to
Undue laughter / as I moved the blade up / up against the rat’s throat / and split the trachea
The ribbed cartilage that felt so much like my own / which sprung open as if it were always straining
As if all the tension / built up over years / of keeping your throat intact / was enough to halve you.

Touched the throat of every romantic partner since / recalling the precise sensation of my cutting
Through that cartilage / revealing the ridged pathways / to each lung / and freeing the Adam’s apple
Shiny and red inside each man’s neck / like the tiny chips of glimmering Pāua spilling from the
Rat’s open wound / all opalescent and bloodless / waiting for collection / dropped in a kidney dish.

We got told off for stealing the Pāua chips because / they were meant to be used the year following
Ending up inside / raisin boxes and sock drawers / our linty pockets among crumbs / and tissue fibres
Destined to fall through the pinholes in the washing machine / glued to a handmade card for mum
Certain to leave / a sour feeling around your sternum / if you remembered their / specific origin.

We knew the teachers had planned it for us / every rat dying peacefully, whether gassed, frozen, or
Electrocuted / however they did it / but I could see them around the table / laughing about failing
Students and marital problems and drinking / Earl Grey from those brown-glass cups with those
Fragile tracheas / forcing Pāua down the throats / of frozen rats / tweezers click against buck teeth
Going down so deep / that no student could see / the sparkling / by just peering / inside the mouth.


The Friday Poem is edited by Chris Tse. Submissions are currently closed and will open again later this year.

The Spinoff Review of Books is proudly brought to you by Unity Books, recently named 2020 International Book Store of the Year, London Book Fair, and Creative New Zealand. Visit Unity Books Wellington or Unity Books Auckland online stores today. 

Mad Chapman, Editor
Aotearoa continues to adapt to a new reality and The Spinoff is right there, sorting fact from fiction to bring you the latest updates and biggest stories. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

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