Bone People

Bone People

Bone People
"E nga iwi o nga iwi"
(O the people of the bones)
Keri Hulme, "The Bone People" 1984
"proximity can create transformation", 
 Ocean Vuong.
Flat on our backs 
we become aware of breath
feeling the body parts
that are touching the mat
Heel pelvis scapula
base of the skull 
a proximity promoting 
a desire for transformation
Rolling to the side we kneel upright
in vajrasana I open my eyes
a young man opposite
is wearing a necklace
From the silver chain hangs
what seems a shark tooth
which is also a part
having proximity with bone
I allow  my eyes to close
 but the bones persist
 Dry bones can hurt no one
a chapel and graves
where only the wind  blows
while the flesh rots
the bones forgot
We move into shavasana
how does my body feel?
we lie like corpses
the dead-still pose 
I shall decompose  
my eyes in a dark flower 
my heart in the ash tree
my tongue in dry-leafed autumn
Bones will become calcite rock
"Then how Oh Lord Shiva 
with such disparity
will you reassemble me?"
There was a time
when the flesh was gone 
the ossuary preserved
the sacred bones
In sky burial
the stone-circle men
laid out the dead 
Sea Eagle left only the white bone
as she strong-winged her flight  
and soared into the light
Or they laid the bones of cattle
 whose flesh they'd  burned and eaten
next to human bone
 under the sacred stones of Brodgar
A sacred proximity
of Eagle bone and skull
in the chambered cairn
 that is the tomb in Ronaldsey
We remove our socks 
I stand a bare rooted tree
"E nga iwi o nga iwi"
(what does this Maori language  mean?)
my white fleshless feet
phalanges scried for meaning 
Watches rings and personal stuff
form small heaps by the mats   
as we rise for the salutation to the sun
the chained tooth left on
Talisman of transformation
it rests on his sternum 
a comfortable affinity 
bone next to bone

4 thoughts on “Bone People

  1. Tony, this poem hallows my yoga practice and comforts me in a most elemental way. Suffused with Nature’s inherent spirituality, your work often seems in a direct line with that of Gary Snyder:

    *When creeks are full The poems flow When creeks are down We heap stones.* – from “Civilization

    *Everywhere is falling everywhere. – *Rumi


  2. Thank you Beth. Yes I like Gary Snyder a lot. Have a few of his books here. We need a a festival of American writers. I have been dsturbed by the writing of Ocean Vuong… the horror of contemporary American urban life …. I find some of his images hard to comprehend … is that because of our cultural or
    eonomic divide ?


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