Rose Marie Bentley’s Aberrant Vena Cava

Rose Marie’s vein was oddly on the left, but instead
of terminating directly into the heart it continued

through her diaphragm, along the bleached river
stones of her vertebrae, up and around and over

the aortic arch, before emptying into the right atrium.
“The odds of finding another person like her

are one in 50 million,” said the scientist in charge
of her autopsy. But then, haven’t most of us

women endured the mortification of men rooting
unbidden inside our cavities, carved like Michelangelo

cut into living stone? Divested of vital organs
but alive, we learned to bite down on spoons

and tongues as they measured and weighed us
by our physical traits. Listen, the true oddity here

isn’t that Rose survived for 99 years; it’s that
no one extolled her singularity when her larynx

pitched a high C of such uncommon purity
as to exorcise the entire United Methodist Choir,

or when her uterus swelled to 20 times its normal
size to accommodate all five of her pregnancies!

In June of ‘44, Rose waded ashore at Omaha Beach,
blood-baptized into the U.S. Army Nurse Corps.

Still the press chose to lead with the abnormality
of a woman who’d offer her right eye to a blind boy

who’d never seen a Molalla sunrise, her aberrant
vena cava to revive a fallen soldier’s failing heart.