What the bones tell us

 R.A. Villanueva


Of a child before the trepan, trill
of the stone pick, the shaman’s loosening of the blood-
swell against her skull          Of hands
as a poultice, the woundwort salve
at the forehead         Of a burial with cornflower garland        Of joints still-
nursed with pollen still among her bones we find here circled

by bones         That mothers wove their fingers raw       That eldermen farmed
the cordillera with palm and knuckle      That boys cast atlatl
and dart even with shoulders broken at the center places, would walk
and fight on fractured legs, with bruised marrow

        That when the Inca
crossed into the cloudforest so also came the new
dead dried, bound together as bundles, skin and eyes intact,
arrayed in feathers and shells for the soul to follow


Berlin archaeopteryx, bird-
        lizard, the claw ringed by feathers,
the jaw bearing teeth        Hollow wish-

        bone vault within salt-stone, engraved
arabesque, a grand jeté crowned
        with sickle wrist        Ur-vogel, lathe-

tendon, pressed Tethys lithograph,
        a counterslab print of thresholds
down in the lagoonbed, waiting—

        Icarus somersault, snake-neck
Mephistopheles Delacroix
        drafts nude-winged above Wittenberg,

between the earth and air        Rock-speak
        confluence of demon, of law


We are left the bull
or bison or auroch, its charge

across the Lascaux triptych
and the rhinoceros unfinished                       

Here a man without bones
is a box with the head of a bird