The Anatomical Venus Wrestles with Pinocchio Syndrome

Emma Sovich

The tourists shuffle infinitely past and the Anatomical Venus thinks about masks. When she mentions them to David, he scoffs: “The mask is a symbol overused.” His scorn, she thinks, comes from his own experience with replication. She imagines his face pressed into wet plaster, the hands that scrub him clean after.

She dreams of slim hands that lift her face from her head, reveal living muscles slicker than wax. She does not tell David. For a month of midnights, she pages through the museum’s small gift store. The lacrimal glands, paired and almond-shaped, secrete the aqueous layer of the tear film. Venus leaves finger-film across glossy diagrams. They are situated in the upper, outer portion of each orbit, in the lacrimal fossa formed by the frontal bone. She presses a finger into the side of her nose, but feels nothing. This, every night.

The taxidermied beasts refuse to lend their claws to experimental surgery. “I must know,” she reasons with the hippo, who assures her that if she has never cried, she has no glands. “You are shortsighted,” Venus says. “Numbness is a symptom, not a state of being.” “Tell that to the truly afflicted,” says the hippo. Venus sighs.

“Fovea,” she finally writes to David. “My clearest vision is my blind spot.” “And what can you see most clearly?” he asks. “Myself, reflected in all this glass.” She is proud of this insight, and writes it over and over in her letter. She even draws pictures, diagrams of eyes and the refraction of light. David is not impressed. “Is this about masks again?”

Emma Sovich, a Baltimore native, teaches creative writing and book arts, having earned MFAs in both fields from the University of Alabama. She has edited Black Warrior Review and is a senior reader for Cherry Tree. Her chapbook, None of Us Know Any Stories, is available through dancing girl press. Find more of her work at

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