Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Jane Adair: Memento Mori

Some things are best unseen.
The crippled buck in the avenue.
Turn away. Turn away
from X-rays. From the vial of your own drawn blood,
from aphids that filigree the leaves.

A doctor can say osteopenic and suddenly
the body is a house, a Victorian in need of repair.
Strangers find it charming, but you are intimate with its faulty
wires, sloping floors, cracks in the plaster.

He’d like to show you the X-rays:
Here is the ulna, a porch chime tinkling in the evening air,
there is the femur, a rickety spindle alongside stairs,
here are the hips, teacups of porcelain.

The mule deer are immigrants from some old
country who walk our sidewalks at dusk.
They can’t read the signs, they don’t trust
our currency. In groups, they’re bold.
They amble into yards – salad bars
of columbine and lilies – to peel aspen bark
in sheaths, gnawing page after gray page,
stunned to have stumbled upon something
written in their own inscrutable tongue –
all of them starving for the news back home.

Osteoclast and Osteoblast are a couple of gravediggers.
One digs the hole.
The other, he fills it back up.

And then the years I couldn’t shake a deep
concern for Mr. Magoo, hapless, always being duped.
Watch out! I’d shout, covering my eyes –
cartoon feet teetering
over one precipice after another.
How could we sleep
as long as he was out there like that?

Things that shatter:

Lenses. Bone. Seed pods. Glass.

os.te.o.clast n. Cells that form holes in the bone.

os.te.o.blast n. Cells that form bone through resorption and assimilation.

Osteoclast sets out in April
with a battalion of slugs and rabbits
to behead the daffodils, prune the pansies, and strip
kernels from hyacinths with orders
to leave nothing but cob.

Osteoblast follows in September to plunder.
He eats what is broken or gone.
He regurgitates small mounds
of splintered detritus and fur into the mouth
of a creature we call Canal, or Cavity, or sometimes, Crow.

I spotted a set of antlers wedged in the skeleton
of a cottonwood. The man I love braved a thicket
of brittlebrush and sage to retrieve them.

I keep them on my desk to remind me
of a woman’s upturned hand – five slender fingers
beseeching – or maybe the buck in traffic,

its wild eyes, the foolish driver cradling its head
in the glow of brake-lights. I understand
why he could not let it end that way.

These antlers constantly ask
for touch. Some days they feel like stone,
others, like wood. When I finger
the knobs once rooted to skull,

and consider how surely they snapped
with a matter-of-fact crack
I believe it might be bone.

Let’s say this buck is alive,
that next year’s velvet has already been shed,

horns now hardening on his dun-colored head.

Copyright 2016 Jane Adair (formerly Jane Wampler)

One comment on “Jane Adair: Memento Mori

  1. Jane Adair
    March 14, 2016

    Reblogged this on adairjane1 and commented:
    A poem about bones; ravenous deer and rabbits; and Mr. Magoo. In short, a poem about near-death.


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This entry was posted on March 14, 2016 by in Poetry and tagged , , .
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