A DISCOURSE - William Miller Poems


Poems » william miller » a discourse


the skeleton's the most articu-
late thing there is except
about Who made him. It's not
graveyards he rattles in but
you and me; skeletons
chase butterflies and do the
Monster Mash in the dark infra-
redroom of the flesh

from the grounded arches of
Man's first pedestal the
Tarsals and Phalanges bones
baby needs shoes for, not
the ones that get them,
keystones for

                         legs of
concern to dashers and prancers
stylers and milers fencers fandancers
romancers advancers
and retreaters
                        unsinewed a collection
of bones named after
skillets and safety pins

                                        the Femur
the skeleton's oaktree, in the old
soon broken least mended
has little to recommend it
in a poem except in the thunderclaptrap
of one lowly notch called the Intercondylar
and one lordly knob called the Greater Trochanter

while Pelvis itself ugly needs flesh
to notify it yet a crown of bones
in the woman the royal
colander drains
life from the sea
waters of the uterine cavern

the tailbone, Coccyx well
named after the cuckoo
connects with old jokes of banana
peels but the Pelvis
attaches that column of latin
the spine, at the Sacrum

in form
eschew connotations of
ramrod or spinelessness, choose
for symbol the integral,
S- shaped, both practical and pleasing; here are
integers stacked like
lecture chairs but cushioned in use
always; muscles may atrophy but these
let heads held high
glare each other in the eye
and swear

rising out of lumbago country and its young
ambassador absorbine junior
through thorax the Dorsals
seem to belong to dolphins
rather than the ribcage
called cavity crammed with vitals

the seven bars of the neck
noted for the top two that help
you nod or shake
so superbly lubricated only
the heart goes creak

the Hyoid hangs out
in this district, a bone
without visible means of support
silent and anonymous in
the mugbook of the anatomist

but the arms have apparatus!
clefshaped Clavicle
doubles the spine's integral
over the stave of the Ribs most
graceful of all body
spans from Sternum to Scapula a
flat plate and the base of wings in angels
armsocket in Mankind;

the humerus: enough said;

Radius and Ulna are staff and support
for that fan that pinwheel that unbeached
starfish the hand: I think of arms raised
lotus columns of Egypt
buttressed by shouldermuscle
and finally fingers touching tips
over the Skull, full
circle from the Phalanges we began with

the Skull's the pontine
arch of the pontifex homely
to me, the only one I met
in person, as a child
                                    my medschool
cousin used a sawed-off
skulltop for ashtray I thought
the flakes inside were dried remains
of brains, bonepink shocked me reading
so much of desert alkali but knew
the concave brainshape volutes cup
cortex and arteriole

you put your lefthand
fingers into the inter-
stices of your right is how
the Frontal fits the Parietals
in the noble Cranium the base
doesn't look that neat
but none the less suffices

Ethmoid takes the weight
of the great oracle with its flutes and coils
Temporals remind us
how bound to time we are Zygomatics
give children those apple
                leave Sphenoid
Conchae, Palatines all fragile none
termed ephemeral for

Stapes, Malleus, Incus
the Auditory Ossicles a
tone poem of their own tell you
what goes bump in the night, usually
the kid falling out of bed on his

from here the Foramen Magnum opens the door
from the brain to the neural telegraph
lines strung along the vascular
tree in lands I have no visa for

balled in a burlap of triple
membranes the rooty
brain's a thing contained and only
container of everything best left
cased under the lock and key of its senses

bridge span arch imply
              in the complex I
admire most the Foramina piercing
bone where marrow hatching phagocytes knock on the wall
arcades where nerve and vein pass through
and begin to define the flesh

the spirit's limits have their arbiters
but I know where the devil