A Study on Bare Bones, by Yong Shu Hoong

2 March 2013

Long after the Vasa sank on its maiden voyage, skeletons were salvaged from its wreckage and osteology applied to determine gender, age, height, illness and injury.

Understanding little how the body aches in the flesh,
I’m more attuned to the way the lashing wind
or callous words can chill a person to the bone.

According to science, life leaves clearer,
more lasting marks on bones than on the heart.
And for that matter, one shouldn’t fear
nor care if the head, too, is lost.
Ultimately, after skin and tendons rot,
the scaffolding still holds firm, providing clues.

Imagine: Cremation should be outlawed
because you’ll never know when
you’ll need to consult the vertebrae.
And wouldn’t it be apt if coded stanzas
are enshrined in the collarbones of poets?

In lovemaking, reach straight for the ribs –
and do likewise, whenever you crave
for keepsakes from your liaisons.
Don’t discuss matters of the heart
or what’s on your mind. Instead
make our bones grind and rattle through the night.

By contrast, in quiet or desperate times,
we listen to ancient wisdom resonating
through the corridors of our ivory tenements.
And let prayers and intercessions ebb and rise
from within the marrow where our souls reside.

[Read in From Within the Marrow, published by firstfruits publications.]

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