Kant the Nephrologist

Lisa Ampleman

Transplanted from Königsberg, our Immanuel—
active, rational subject—evaluates kidneys.

He finds them disinterestedly beautiful:
the branching grace of the renal artery,

cortex nestled around the salty medulla,
U-shaped loop of Henle aiding the filtration.

Remarkable, too, the tubing that can sift
the body’s blood through an arm-vein

when the kidneys—poisoned by sugar,
alcohol, disease—cannot, and the categorical

imperative of the transplant list protocol.
On his daily constitutional past Starbucks,

he considers the amount of caffeine
one must ingest before calcium stones

form. If the patient’s flank radiates
pain and the urine is cloudy or burns,

Dr. Kant can set him (or her) straight
with extracorporeal shock waves.

He’s never married, enjoys red wine
in moderation. Doesn’t complain

when the office clerk tells a patient
“we pronounce it cant.”

He sees the thing-in-itself
in films shot through a patient’s skin—

ultrasound, CT scan, the sublimity of organs
suspended in darkness, aurora borealis—

and in his hands: the pocked surface
of a removed polycystic, or the glistening,

palm-sized gift from a relative or stranger,
one quarter-pound of good will.

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