Ryan J. Browne

Theory of MRI

You are not to move,
you are unmovable,
you flatten like a fish

from the deep,
internally illuminated,

The white belly of waiting hums.
You want to holler inside
and answer your own echo—

this is how science works.
The white belly bangs.
Like filings and shavings

your life begins to align
into a silhouette
then striates rainbows.

One of those is of your father.
He’d spark his days away
in the hulls of battleships

stick welding barbettes, armor,
bulkheads, then stumble home
with cigarettes and booze

slanting from his mouth.
He’d turn the night into dark.
His hands would knot

around the banister
not so much as a dove
on a branch but as a mother

pinning her child to her breast.
The white belly still bangs.
Your father, you think.

He could not be here now.
The years of fusing steel
to other, harder alloys

sunk metal bits under his skin.
Even his eyes were freckled with iron.
And the unseen tectonics of these magnets

would drag that metal out of him
and perhaps seem a spirit
cleaving from the body.

You couldn’t blame him,
do not blame him.
Those smallest, most telling parts

are often found incidentally,
like how the oldest parts of Earth
were found on the moon.

An intercom crackles
in the white belly.
This machine breaks you down

so that your fluency
in the universe is pronounced,
you are not to pronounce it.

Ryan J. Browne earned his M.F.A. from The University of Alabama. While there, he taught poetry classes in prisons with the Alabama Prison Arts + Education Project. His debut collection, Outside Come In, won the 2011 Bright Hill Press Annual Book Competition. Get in touch with Ryan at ryanjbrowne.com.