Poetry: Mnemonic

Jumbled anatomy lab box: sticks, knots
Ivory polished by years of touch
Fingered, fitted, laid in rows, decades
from the proper rest of graves.

Carpal, tarsal, incus, stapes,
Ilium, ischium, rib.
Conjure-names for destiny,
Spells with a terrible grace.

Grandma said her friend didn’t have a single mean bone,
So for years I thought of one small bone, a spiky knot
Of meanness caught in certain people, maybe in the throat,
Making rattled ugliness whenever they talked.

Never Lower Tillie’s Pants
Grandma Could Come Home
Navicular, lunate, triquetrium, pisiform
Scaphoid, capitate, cuboid, hamate.

Grandma got to be the scaphoid;
necessary bone, essential
for the proper use of hands:
knit, stir, spank, hug.

Wire-strung, castanet Mr. Bones
in the comer dressed for Halloween
Groucho glasses and cigar
Say the secret woid, Mr. Bones.

The ankle bone’s connected to the knee bone
Fibula, tibia, femoral condyle
Dry bones have no remorse –
Always the last stone along the path.

Sinew-strung blocks, rag-tag scraps,
flesh a banner too-long flown
tattered by the years hanging from a staff.
Bones grow stronger under strain.

Until the day they snap and life rains down,
sculptured beauty splinters into pain.
Meanness is a given, soaks to the bone
but beauty doesn’t stop at the skin.

CATHARINE CLARK-SAYLES
Mill Valley, California

Category: Main

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