T. L. Stokes The 2River View, 6.2 (Winter 2002)

Ivory Remnants Under the Owl’s Eyes


No bone is plucked without payment,
each comes with history,
marrow hard or hollow,
whether you like it or not.

I keep my bones in a red lid shoe box
close to the fraying hem of ghost dust
under the plank’s coil belly,
where they never rattle

until my web fingers stir them.

Like crystal figures I carry them,
like artifacts under glass in long mute hallways—
and stand at the fore of sixty eyes,
museum lamps.

All the owls watch, pulling up and down
their shades, I lift a deer jaw
with teeth, shark’s crescent rib,
one bird skull, papyrus-light.

Then scallops of unhinged vertebrae,
clicking, and a tooth
the elk hid in the mountain.


The spike antler was chiseled off
over two full days of my becoming
an Indian, earning by sweat the soft, smooth curve,
the weight of the yearling’s growth.

We worked in tandem, my friend and I,
with shoulders nudged
and tongues between teeth,
drunk morticians,

throwing back our black wings.


Drowned wide eyes watch me,
mermaid hair fanning his death mask.
Finally, into small web hands, he offers to shed
one point from his unfledged crown.

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2River All is well.