Monday, September 9, 2013

A song for bones

It’s funny, what scares you sometimes.

When I started working on the poems required for The Resurrectionist’s Song, I was absolutely terrified. I knew I wasn’t a very good poet—I once served on the editorial board of a literary journal and discovered that I couldn’t even understand most of the poetry submitted for publication, let alone tell good from bad. If I couldn’t even figure out the rules of the genre, how was I supposed to write anything in it above the level of “There once was a girl from Nantucket”?

But the book demanded poems, and I try to give stories what they need, so I scribbled the best I could do and cautiously emailed them off to a friend from graduate school, a real live poet who has probably never used the word “Nantucket” with a straight face. Then I ducked and covered and waited for the explosion.

Shockingly, he tells me my poems do not suck. So here’s one for you on this sunny Monday morning, the first poem I wrote for The Resurrectionist’s Song. It’s repeated a couple of times in the story, most notably chanted over a set of old bones and over the body of a character at the point of death.

There is no mention of Nantucket.


Bone to ash and soul to sky,
One to scatter, one to fly;
Tooth for tooth and eye for eye,
Marching, marching home to die

Hands we held and mouths we fed,
Shadow cast on marriage-bed,
Some who followed, some who led,
Now the army of the dead.

Skeletons at victory-feast,
Voices stilled and laughter ceased;
There, from mightiest to least,
Watching, patient as some beast.

Ancient grudge and honeyed lie,
Warring-song and battle-cry,
Bone to ash and soul to sky,
Marching, marching, you and I.

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