The spine occasionally everts, truculent vertebrae rebel against the flimsy jurisdiction of muscle
and ligament—tendon and fascia bulk and press at odd places. My walk is unslung, unusual, and favors odd loci in the cycle of my steps.
and the heat seizes my brain,
brands me with 20 minutes not my own.
Cycling in circles, no recall of my destination,
where I am or who, the day, the hour,
my purpose and intent.
The limbo moment fades,
and I roll to my summer job
doing grunt work at the museum, digging
through archaeological trash.
I find the first bone pressed into
I put my hand on my back, my lumbar foundation denying extradition to my expatriate bone
boxes, stacked awry.
newly in love,
and away for a weekend together.
We ate calzone bigger than our plates,
and came together for the first time.
In the ocean up to my shoulders,
a misplaced sharpness at my feet
speaks of whelks and deep,
but when I pick it up with my toes
and bring it to the sun,
It is the second bone and larger,
with an extravagant piscean process
built for the white flesh of ocean,
built for swift currents, for speed.
When the spine tenses like a snake that coils tight against injury, there are enemies everywhere:
the inexpensive desk chair, now costly; the unsprung sofa with its too-low cushions; the small step up to the kitchen that now feels like a giant leap, unkind.
and traveling by car
to stitch my thread across the map.
Halfway through our 12000 miles,
we’re walking up a steep California path
behind a Mill Valley rental that my father took
to chase a woman to the West
who was already gone.
I’m not the first in line,
so I know it’s for me
that the brown deer bone
(or dog) emerges like an optical illusion
from the brown damp leaf-bed underfoot
and rolls to its rest against my shoe.
The cool solid terrazzo, where I gasp and kneel to suddenly, presses firm, cold assurances into
the fever of my bones. That slab knows no untoward curvature.
and with an infant child on stroll.
My son and I not even anywhere special,
just the neighborhood, a sidewalk circle
bent in 4 places,
There in the neatly edged grass
of the Haitian woman down the way,
a whole articulated spine presented to me,
jewel-boxed in the summer green velvet of St. Augustine Blue.
It’s probably a fish, maybe takeout,
or backwoods dog chew treat—
But perfect, sun cleaned and white,
articulated and so intimate
the way the bones nestled tight,
a perfect stack.
and in pain, I am a slave-driver to my backbone
to make it carry so much, take on all sorrows as its own.
How can it not bend a little, after all?
Joseph Campbell, it’s not that I’ve forsaken you
it’s just that the bones are an incongruous metaphor,
or maybe I called them out of the void
because they sensed their own nearby,
so they knuckled into being just to say hello,
only to find themselves shunted to boxes
imprisoned on shelves, a mere story
about myth and time with no living muscle attached,
no marrow in any of them, ever.