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The Bones of Us

I could mistake a life for

too many dusks darkening

along the spine. Somebody was saying

the skeleton of our faith, the skeleton of our faith

but whose? There are two-

hundred & six bones that hold

the human body like this: ninety-four

bones have disappeared from you. So forgive me—

no. They are always still

there inside you. Rejoicing how they

merged into this you. Rejoicing

like a day’s worth of light hitting your body

fleshed with only its ribcage. A mother was said

to shoot back at the men—for killing

her family. It was dawn. So many bodies, so

why remember it now?

The first time I went to church I cried

in that Sunday school closet. Someone said you’ll probably

burn after you die for being

this skin. For this skin your ghosts agreed on.

Somewhere between

my jawline & neck bone

is an animal-

skinned god left out for good.

Counting back to zero.

& when the lamps are on in the house

the first sound

I lose is the forest

dressed in fire.

Every summer was this: fields & fields

of ash. Someone said

it’s like midnight scraped from a muffler. & I believed

I was awake

in the ochre-blasted wheat: talking &

talking bones. Back & forth. A rust-on-rust kind of conversation

about every story

carved into the land like a testament on the inside

of the mouth.

My mother spoke at night about hunger like a child

holding his face together

of his first art project. Of course

it was his mother: the yarn

her hair. No, what she meant was

everyday is an act of starvation.

& I promised my body to so many. But the living body was

in a way

spoken for. So I stopped.

I stopped & put my ear to your belly. You said, listen for the aurora

in your own lungs.

When living is a season

across a field between us breathing

& our dead, your savior watched

as the ghost reached down

& then brought his hand to his mouth.

He was told: be obedient.

Like any decent animal. Placing

invisible serviceberries on his tongue & eating

into a stillness

an air unfinished for so many reasons.

& darling, if our mouths happen

to touch someday: remember—

it means only that I am speaking

to you. That we have always been speaking

to each other.

Someone said fragility like survival.

The fragility of our people is not

within the flesh: but the footprints

of the gods who once lived here. & abandoned their homes to us.

This bone-bright air, the promised land

of angels lying

in the grass with no memory

of who had left them there

for dead

I could mistake this year for any other

grave I’ve dug. For someone

who said—boy, welcome to your life. I didn’t know

the hands were nothing

but houses—

were everything we said

they could be—a shadow of every body

you’ve ever wanted to touch.

I look into a mirror as if afraid.

Afraid to say: you should look in the mirror before you leave

today. I stare at you like the last mirror

I remember breaking.

from Poetry Northwest 12.1 Summer & Fall 2017More by Michael Wasson from the library

Copyright © Michael Wasson
Used with the permission of the author
on behalf of Poetry Northwest.

Published in Michael Wasson Poems

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.