Master, where are your bones tonight?

Object from the exhibition We call them Vikings produced by The Swedish History Museum

Master, where are your bones tonight?
I heard the coyotes keening as the moon rose;
and the heavy air brought the scent
of burgeoning prairie grasses.
Summer is coming on fast,
and faster every year.

Master, where are your bones tonight?
You went into the desert, again and again, and then
one night you never came home.
We knew why, we had brought you there—
brought your body and your ghost: your life
had already leaked out of you, into hospital tubes, and was gone.
We left you there in the desert,
to reconcile with the Earth.

I had a recurring dream after you died:
Coyote, as a lark, was playing a reel
on a flute made from your shinbone.
His eyes looked sad and he was dancing
a few feet above the earth.
His eyes looked sad. But—you know—
with Coyote, you never can tell.

In my dream, if it was mine,
summer was always coming on fast, and the prairie grasses
whipped in a playful dance
until I woke. And summer came.

I haven’t had that dream in years.
Just tonight, though, the rising moon caught me wondering—
Where are your bones tonight, Master?


Image: Flute | Bone, posted by The Swedish History Museum under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license.

Turns out the word tibia comes from a Latin word that means flute. Here is a video of someone playing just such a flute… not particularly enthusiastically, but. Yes, it’s a real tibia. “It smells a bit strange, but otherwise it’s… perfectly playable as a flute.” Here are some other playable bones, or reconstructions of bones

One for National Poetry Writing Month.

7 thoughts on “Master, where are your bones tonight?

  1. You never know with this shoddy little trickster, indeed. I love the poem, which is a somewhat bland thing to say — but it is true, nonetheless. It reminds me of the story of bone woman, who scours the desert to collect the bones of animals (wolves, most often, but surely coyotes as well. But then, coyotes will resurrect as long as a bit of their tail remains), and when she has found the entire skeleton, she sits in her cave and sings them back to life. Death and song and rebirth — much enjoyed the poem. Thank you for sharing it.


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