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

under my fingers.

Bone Soup

I am a bird with 
bones made out of air

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


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...


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


...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


24 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.

  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.

          • 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.

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