Lateral meniscus located between femur (above)...
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I had knee surgery a couple of years ago; a minor clean-up of my medial meniscus.

When the doctor finished this fairly routine arthroscopic procedure, he said to me, “You’ll be back to playing a fool and not acting your age in a few weeks.”

He was right.   I was traipsing all over India in a few weeks and back to playing basketball again within a couple of months.

One night during my recuperation, I started thinking about the knee.

It’s a very flawed design, full of serious structural problems.  Almost I want to say the knee is a botched job.

Anyway, a poem started to form in my head and I did something uncharacteristic: I wrote it down.   Usually, I work on poems in my head for a while before putting them down on paper.

Then I did something else that was atypical: I included it in a batch of poems sent to the American Poetry Review, one of the most prestigious poetry publications in the country, which happens to be published here in Philadelphia.

Ordinarily, I wait for several drafts before sending my new poems anywhere, a process that can take months or even years.

A few months later, however, the poem was accepted by APR and it was published in that summer (July/August 2008 issue).  Perhaps I shouldn’t worry my poems so much and just let them be.  Truth be told, this one just seemed right. (I did tinker with it in a minor way before it appeared in APR and again after it was published, mostly some grammatical stuff with which I wasn’t happy.  I just can’t help myself…)

Here is my poem, “Intelligent Design”:

The knee is proof:

there’s no such thing

as “intelligent design.”

If there were, the knee

would be much improved,

rather than in need

of replacement.

The doctor tells me

they are doing

wonderful things

with technology these days,

have improved the joint

and bond—

Amazing, really, they

can take a sheep’s tendon

and attach it there and here

or remove ligaments

from one part of the body,

secure it by drilling holes

and plugging them up,

stretching until taut

with tension superior

to the original.

The new designs

are so much better

(“my better is better

than your better”)

it seems obvious

the Creator

took off the afternoon,

went to play a round

of golf with Beelzebub,

perhaps a foursome with

Methuselah and Lucifer,

left the joint between

thigh bone and shin

to an intern.

Isn’t it obvious?

I mean, 2 million years

of evolution haven’t

improved the knee one wit.

Nothing intelligent about it.

–Scott Edward Anderson, American Poetry Review, July/August 2008

Here is an Mp3 of my reading the poem at Kelly Writers House in September 2008: Scott Edward Anderson’s “Intelligent Design”

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