Sample Poems by Berwyn Moore
Tweezing the Bones
Fill all thy bones with aches.
I sit at the table, two slabs of raw
salmon before me, and tweeze the center
ridge of bones—a picket fence, God’s perfect
teeth—from the pink flesh. Other bones I find
with my fingers, pressing to feel the spiky
tips, the delicate spindles, that I pinch
with the metal tips, then lay in a row
on the dark wood, bone by arced bone, slivers
of glass or moon. We could just as easily
nudge the cooked meat against our teeth and use
our tongues to find the tiny daggers, pull
them from our mouths before we swallow, but
when I’m done I’ll tell you this flesh is safe,
picked clean, even as you stand across the room,
arms folded, flinging your words like knives.
In the valley of bones, Ezekial prophesied
to dry ribs and femurs scattered
on the ground. Sun-bleached skulls
rolled to vertebrae that clicked into place,
tibias stretched, and phalanges snapped.
The bones rattled as they came together.
Then tendons. And skin. And breath!
They stood on their feet—a vast army,
strong-boned and muscled, their spongy
marrow pulsing with new blood. Bones.
Durable bones. They last beyond us,
dense and calcified, tombed or catacombed,
buried in layers of dark loam and clay.
Fragments remain after the long fire.
In Kutna Hora, centuries of bones decorate
the Church of All Saints: garlands of skulls
hang from the ceiling—and a chandelier made
with every bone of the human body. Bones
arranged as bells, urns and candelabras.
Bones latticed across the walls. Crisscrossed
snowflakes and stars, hexagonal flowers.
Pyramids of skulls—hollow-eyed saints,
nameless, perpetually watching.
An evening without stars. Our bonfire
blazes, white smoke rising from a circle
of stones, our midsummer night of flame
and shadow. Our good fire of riddance:
dead fish and marsh grass, cigarette butts
and firecracker shells, chopped brush
and piled trash. Our sin fire of riddance:
sharp words flung across a room, the fear
of loss, old stains and fevers, the deep sigh
of despair, dark flies clustered around death—
burnt offerings ushered up to the clouds.
In the morning, we’ll rake the ash for missed
coins or lost earrings, any small residue
of worth, and we’ll find, as we always do,
a few fragments of bone and wonder whose
shame was too tough to burn. Like a seraph,
I’ll hold a live coal to your lips. I’ll tell you
it’s safe, an atonement, and you will not speak.
Picasso’s “Woman with a Crow”
Bluer than indigo
bluer than a porcelain eye—
there is no word for blue like this,
saturating each space between hair and arm
between arm and the thick black of bird.
Maybe the cold blue of heaven
spills over this woman, her lips pursed
in a face the color of a corpse—
but there is no death here.
Her fingers spread thin as talons
along the bird’s black side;
its head, turned gently down and around,
bows into itself, wings in mute surrender.
All that separates them is the color—
the cold blue moan, the hushed black caw,
the pale skin veil.
It must be their kiss that transforms
not them, but my vision.
They are not two, but one:
for David Lehman
MS stood for Mary Shelley, or magnetic storm,
for mackerel sky in Mississippi, or malfeasance
at Microsoft. The mother ship sank. Mother
Superior scoffed. The mystery shopper slunk
among suede mules and mauve sheets. Megastars
slung mud. Miscreants smudged murals. Such
mindless moosetwits, as if a maelstrom of slurs
and mean tones mangled Mahler’s 6th symphony.
Metrosexuals mimic Mona Lisa’s smile, moan
at muscle shirts. Students muddle manuscripts.
Sorry for Ms. M’s multiple sclerosis. Miniskirts
seduce money-spinners as mothers spit, mongrels
snarl, mendicants swoon, men shrug. So mind your
manky spirit. Mourn your shoddy moral sense.
Old Kinderhook. Oshkosh.
Overkill in Oklahoma.
Obese kids. Older kids keen
on Outkast and Organized
Konfusion. Ornery kooks
kicking and killing. Onlookers
kissing them off. Odious kings.
Oppressive killjoys obsessing
over Orwellian knowledge.
Obnoxious klutzes. Kinky
otaku with their office keys.
Obscure karma. Odd kangaroos
and their outspoken keepers.
Off-key karaoke. Out-of-kilter
kinfolk and oily kvetches. Oy—
what ongoing kerfuffle.