First Ned Kelly’s skull
then Pharlap’s mighty heart.
Phrenology and the history of morbid awe.
Next to be purloined
for purposes of research was Einstein’s brain,
(plus his eyeballs
given as a present to Albert’s ophthalmologist).
The hypothesis of the current study posits the question: Why?
With a saw.
Back and forth until the cranium popped.
Cause of death: a burst aorta.
Taken straight from the autopsy by Dr Thomas Harvey
realising who it was on the slab
and what an opportunity this might mean for science.
The brain weighing an ordinary three pounds (approx)
was kept in a pickling jar
in a cider box
under a Budweiser beer cooler
in Tom Harvey’s basement
for twenty-three years.
Harvey’s wife laid down an ultimatum,
it’s either me or the brain.
He chose the brain.
Forensically dissected into 240 pieces
the brain became an even bigger jigsaw.
Sent out on slides to labs across the country
they counted the neurons, glia, sulci, gyri
only to find (inconclusively) there were lots.
The musical cortex, admittedly, larger.
That’s what ten hours sleep a night
plus eating grasshoppers will do
which Einstein did.
He published nothing, Harvey.
Gave away slices of it to casual fans.
Did not sell it to the military who wanted it
in order to defeat the Russians
themselves collecting brains of their own.
Lost his medical practitioner’s licence.
Found work in a plastics factory in Wichita.
Eventually returned to Princeton,
the brain in a tub in the trunk of his car,
not so much at the speed of light,
more the speed of a Buick Skylark
in heavy traffic, all things being relative.
Harvey behind the wheel
getting too old to care for it now,
wanting to donate it back.
Still listening for what the silence
of the brain might have to tell him,
what esoteric secrets of the universe
hopefully not in German which, like the nurse
who misheard Einstein’s dying words,
Harvey did not speak.
Feature image via 'Art Collection - The Metropolitan Museum of Art'