The Bone Man

Iman Byfield
after “Cricket Cage” by Charles LeDray


His business is the bow

and bend of femur, clavicle


and pelvis, rounded patella

single rib fingered like a cigarette


pressed to his cleft as he considers

the ridged top of the mandible


an unhinged phalange.

Only he can finesse the work


of sculpting trinkets from bone

carve a beveled edge, a cabriole leg


handle the cranium like

a grandmother’s baubles.


(There is only one way

to get the meat out of an oxtail:


burrow your tongue into the porous

crevasse, suck the sapid marrow


from the bone, pick the stubborn

meat with your fingers


hold the cleaned remains between

your lips and make it whistle)


I will prepare the bones for you

strip away the soft flesh


pull the stubborn pith with my hands

rescue the teeth from the drain


fill the cracks with glue and wrap

them in tissue paper like a gift.


I will tell the family “your son

will be a tiny chest, just big enough


to hold a first tooth; I will carve

small spells into the under


side of the sternum before it becomes

a door through which no one can pass.”


Photo credit: Marion Doss

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