The Bone Cycle

I have a thing for bones...which perhaps goes back to my childhood...a poem from my 
favorite book of nonsense verse...

"Hannah Bantry, in the pantry,
gnawing on a mutton bone,
how she gnawed it, how she clawed it,
when she found herself alone."

I'm still gnawing...

Bone Dance

You were the one who lived through your body
          while eye lived in mind.

When you opened your mouth,
	your bones spoke to me.

They told me 
        of
how they wanted to dance,
	of 
how they longed to be free
	of 
the skin and the flesh
	of
the creature they framed.
	They
wanted to dance in the sky,
	to 
dangle in the trees.
	They
wanted to rattle in the breeze
	and
punctuate the silence
	with 
their hollow music
	and 
all I wanted 
                    was to feel them
	move

under my fingers.

Bone Soup

today 
I am a bird with 
bones made out of air

tomorrow 
I will be a bull 
with bones of stone

and the day after that
I will buy my bones 
in the market

and make soup

Moon Bones

I.

There is a fall in
to dark, felt in the bone, a 
loss of heat, a slow 

tilting away and 
cyclical spin into space,
a shy, unnoticed 

turning of blue and 
green to grey.  They say that the 
light goes out of it 

as if the light leaves 
of its own accord, a wan 
A-chord in the wood.

There is a word in the dark
where no moon is heard...

II.

There I read of the spoon-fed dead, how their 
zen amounted to zed, surmounted by 
spires built to go higher until their fires 

flew in the sky and spied and tried twisting 
their wrists in the bonds they had become so 
fond of, that they loved even though reviled 

and shoved away and held sway over the 
fray and stayed none the less where their sun-born 
lies could not see through the tresses but blessed 

the butcher and the barber none the more let 
them near with their knives and their shears while tears 
came and the rending of garments began

the beating of chests and the mustering 
bluster and pounding of hearts into dust

III.

...and you looked at me 
with your moon-bone eyes and I 
saw to the hearts of 

the stars felt solar 
wind in the spars and lines of 
age on my primal 

face knew the breeze with 
the skein of seven seas knees 
climbing millennia 

to the crow’s nest and
finally resting raced to 
the crest of the day

and rubbed galaxies 
from the corners of my eyes.

In The Bone Night

When night falls for the bones,
Nothing comes from the dark,
Nothing goes into the light
and the marrow burns on its own.

The tunnel bends 
to its own demise 
and turns in its cold sack
as the sun dies 
and the skies close down
their colors.

They drown us in the hues of
someone else's nightmares while
our own forgotten dreams
lie down in the grass and

all we can do is lie down
with them and smell it coming 
like we smell our own sweat 
and wait for the rain to wash it all away.

From the darkness, from 
the depths, a crystalline air 
vibrates our structured souls 
until they shatter into light

while the bones beat and rattle 
within us, playing 
us like a single drum.



Bone Rune

bones poke through 
thinning flesh

flesh wants to let go 
of bones

it is hard to find comfort 
in a bag of bones

hard to find anything to give 
but hardness

it is hard to find anything
but bones

there is only hardness 
and the bag


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29 thoughts on “The Bone Cycle

  1. I too have a thing for bones, love to use them in my poems and also to make soup.
    “moon-bone eyes” wish I had thought of that one…brilliant.
    In the Bone Night is my favorite…but really I like them all.

    • Thanks Ron–Really appreciated.
      I was on much more of a roll when I wrote most of these. Very little free time lately and navel-gazing is key to my poetic process…
      Just realized I forgot to hit the follow button when I was over at your place. Going to remedy that now.
      Peace–

  2. Loved these! I have a thing for bones too. so finely sculpted, bare and simple, yet elegant, essential. So many beautiful images in your poems. My favorites: eye lived in mind, bones dancing in the sky and dangling in trees, rattling in breeze; bones of air and bones of stone;; stanza III in Mon Bones, all of it, but especially the last, rubbing galaxies from the corners of your eyes; our souls shattering into light, and bones playing us like a drum. Poems to savor. Thank you.

    • More bloggy kismet funniness: I have two “bone poems” in the works right now, and it hadn’t occurred to me that of course they would go into the Bone Cycle until your comment! Duh.

    • Just looking some things over and realized I never said, “Thank You!” for these wonderful words. I most especially appreciate your close read and thoughtful attention.
      I have been terribly busy and not always thinking very clearly of late.
      Thank you, deborah–

    • Thanks so much, John. I appreciate your words and especially your re-reading.
      These poems actually came about over a longish stretch of time and the idea of collecting them came later, when I realized that there were certain themes running through many of my poems. “Bones” in this case.
      You may click on the titles here to link to the original posts.

      Thanks again!

    • I believe I was thinking more along the lines (ha!) of the yarn/thread/rope image. Tying it in with the nautical tone. Looking at it now (haven’t really given it a close read in a few years) that word choice does seem a little questionable. But then this whole piece, as I recall, was rather stream-of-consciousness. The words chose themselves to some degree. I was just trying to get my mind relaxed enough to produce.
      Thanks for the comment.

      • I wasn’t questioning the use, its an interesting word choice & i was interested in how it represented the sea for you. Gerard Manley Hopkins uses it in The Sea & the Sky Lark

        left hand, off land i hear the lark ascend; / Its rash-fresh, re-winded, new-skeined score / In crisp of curl off wild winch whirl…

        its a word i like

        • Well, I welcome the opportunity to re-evaluate choices I have made in the past, especially if I find that the choice was not an entirely conscious one. The complexity idea is in there as well, I think, as the word skein also reminds me of nets and tangles and for whatever reason it also brings to mind “ravel” which is a word that I am fond of, not least because it is a contronym.
          I have not read much Hopkins but have always been fond of his sonics, his use of just-enough-but-not-too-much consonance, assonance and alliteration.
          Something that I admire.

          • i suppose nothings ever really done, it can always be messed with. Robert Lowell used to do it at readings. i constantly revise stuff, i am comfortable saying, “done for now” then using it in some way then maybe months later changing it.

            Hopkins is arguably more sonic than anything else. His themes suffer for always being jammed by a Jesuit career: everything comes back to the glory of God.
            He didn’t, in my opinion, write a lot of good poems, but the good ones he did write are worth reading him for; poems such as The Sea & the Sky Lark, The Wreck of the Deutschland’ & ‘To R.B.’ to name only a few of maybe a score. His idiosyncratic style is worth studying: he seems to have felt a limitation in language in general, so he used compounds to give his actions an internal tension & yet in the tension there is greater understanding, it allowed him to almost get inside the motions of nature, the actual movement of sound in The Sea & Sky Lark, the entanglement of the two, is achieved through compounds: the Lark’s song is ‘rash-fresh’ a ‘re-winded, new-skeined-score in crisp of curl of wild-winch-whirl, which could be used to describe the sea.
            i’ll stop, i could drone on & on & on…

            You appear to me to take great consideration of your lexicon, i think you’d extract a great deal from Hopkins. He’s very unique.

          • Thank you for that.
            I am reminded of a quote from Paul Valery: “Poems are never finished – just abandoned”
            which is also attributed to many others apparently so I think the sentiment is strong. Marianne Moore revised her poems up until the publication of her collected works and then some.
            The whole reason I started blogging was to get myself to push poems into some semblance of a “finished” state. To be able to say, “There. I finished a poem.” which was something I rarely did up until then. Wrote bunches, finished nothing, nothing substantive to show for it.
            I will take this as a reminder to re-visit Hopkins. Thanks for the recommendations.

          • Auden said something similar to Valery or he may have just been quoting him in his own words. But i am not at all familiar with Auden, i can’t confirm.
            i don’t think it ultimately matters or means anything to not accept the completion, so long as you allow yourself the space to say the poem is pliable so long as it proceeds through a history you both share.

          • The shared history of poet and poem.
            I like that idea very much.
            And yes, I think that even if the poet feel that the poem is “complete”, it is still and always pliable to the reader(s).

          • Funny that you mention Lowell. I was just thinking of him as someone who achieved a palpable musicality by using so many sounds at once, somehow none of them clashing, almost-too-much-but-somehow-just-enough, like Van Gogh’s use of ‘too much’ color. The Exile’s Return when I first read it blew the top of my head off.
            “The search-guns click and spit and split up timber / And nick the slate roofs on the Holstenwall / Where torn up tilestones crown the victor.”

          • Lowell was a bit good. i don’t know if i agree with your opinion on Lowell’s music, i always felt it very austere & subtle, something at once arcane but contemporary, that’s how i feel about Lord Weary’s Castle & the Mills of the Kavannaugh. Life Studies however, feels entirely new, a very personal.

          • Can I back-pedal a bit? I don’t know about Lowell as a whole, either. Much of his work leaves me flat and I am not well-read enough to catch all of the many layers of nuance and reference in most of it. Austere, yes. Too subtle for my blunt mind.
            But I do hear something in these lines that I am very much drawn to sonically. Perhaps I will back-pedal again and re-define my terms. Rather than musicality, let’s call it syncopation or possibly more accurately, poly-rhythm. It is the meshing and over-lay of both stress and vowel and consonant sounds that I admire here. Others do it as well (and better?) though I am at a loss to think of examples at the moment. My memory is terrible.

          • i think Lowell’s ‘Life Studies’ would be to your liking. The writing is more personal & direct, he doesn’t obfuscate so much, i think it may owe to him using more free verse for Life Studies & the freedom giving him pause, perhaps, to make the poetry more accessible. It was a very popular book, so i suppose that tactic worked (if that was his intent, i am only conjecturing).

            It may be a personal association, but i sometimes think Berryman & Lowell achieve a similar music. But that may just be because they were friends. Berryman is probably the more difficult poet, if only i think, sometimes, because we don’t expect somebody to use the sort of subject matter he uses, or the imagery he develops.

            When you say “syncopation” do you mean the way the internal rhymes of the line return after a half beat, as in “click and spit and split” & then return again in the next line as “nick the slate”?

          • I took a brief stab at ‘Life Studies’ and if memory serves it did not appeal to me. I will give it another go. I fell like I might even have a copy around here somewhere.

            I actually find Berryman (at least what I have read of the Dream Songs) more appealing. More difficult? Probably. But then I try not to let ‘understanding’ get in the way of my appreciation of a poet or their poems. I adore Wallace Stevens, though of course that vast majority of his work is beyond me.

            There is something about the Dream Songs that draws me in. Perhaps it is the subject and the imagery, but it is somehow more ‘open’ to me. My mind is left to make its own leaps and associations, even if they are not the ones intended by the poet. I often think about the term ‘ambiguity’ in this regard and that in poems, it is not necessarily a bad thing for this very reason. Too much of course can be a bad thing and the poem ends up being mushy, but just enough and it is juicy.

            I think perhaps poly-rhythm is the better term for what I am thinking of. Where in music there may be a laying rhythmically of a pattern of threes over a pattern of fours, for instance, only in poetry one one pattern might be the stress pattern while the other might be–in this context–a vowel or consonant sound. How these patterns mesh and blend. (Is there perhaps already a term in poetics for this?)

            So in the case of the Lowell poem, it’s the way that the pattern of those short ‘i’s are laid over all the various consonant sounds as well as the stress pattern. And somehow to me that ‘i’ sound doesn’t quite become too much, but it just almost does. There are five short ‘i’s so close together that their cessation comes as a release.

          • i have been impressed with Berryman since i read him. i always think of the Dream Songs as social commentary & Jungian psychology.
            i don’t think they’re quite as difficult as people make out, they aren’t easy, but i don’t think they are meant to be inexplicable. If you read them for what they are, they are pretty heavily commentating on what was going on at the time, some criticism of academia, the usual love, hate, depression, alcohol, sex, lots & lots & lots of death & loss. i think humour too, some of it is very funny. i think,, & i am, have been & probably will repeat this mistake, but we tend to sometimes read too much into something, or look for more profundity than is actually provided because we have this great ego to look informed. & i don’t know, if that is (mitigated in a humble register to provoke discussion) such a bad thing, but it does mean we might just miss the forest for the trees. We call a lot difficult where it make just be the poet exercising the right to encourage diversity of expression. i am sometimes persuaded that for all Dylan Thomas’s difficulty, i have an inkling that 80-90% of his poems are about the body & it decomposition. i may be totally wrong, but i read him & that just seems to be his obsession. This is simply born out his oddness & how often he refers to worms.

            Wallace is immense, perhaps the most important poet i have read & continue to read. i actually have a series of poems which use his poems as environments for my thoughts on his subjects, which i expand on or often Wallace appears in the poems with me (if you are interested check my menu heading ‘The Library of Babel & other poems & look for tile with a photo of Wallace). i had to do this to loosen his grip on my poetry. i just wanted to rewrite all his poems in my own hand, he’s just perfect. But he should be read almost literally at times to escape the danger of over thinking him. Take him at his word, it is sufficient much of the time.

            If you like that music in Lowell, read Robert Browning, especially Red Cotton Night Cap Country. Browning’s music is effortless, but not archaic or overtly classical, he really should have been born a generation later, he’s a perfect modernist. Some of his speculations, especially in the poem i mention are way ahead of their time. His Sordello is potentially the first inexplicable poem, even (dare i say it) avant garde.

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