Monday, April 11, 2011


It shouldn't take long to disassemble.
The temporal bone, where time lives;
the ethmoid, of its self-same kind;
the occiput,
with its handy knob for hanging hats --

a simple screwdriver, wielded well,
will do the job. A tap or two, and the parietals
should come in half like walnut shells,
and all the thoughts dash frantic round the room,
like dogs after weeks of rain
let out into the yard.

My frontal bone,with its eye-ridge
(don't tell me the proto-Germans
never tried it out with Neanderthals)
should pop open
like the hatchback of a Honda. And my jaw,
should any Hebrew hero lack for arms,
is stashed there like a rifle in its rack.

And finally, having scooped
the pulpy stuff of cleverness away,
you'll come to the almond
amygdala, gleaming, and inlaid
with rage and desire like parquetry
or gold enameling, and hidden under that,
only glasswork made by tender hands:
fragile bowls of sky or midnight blue.


Dale said...

The skull is made up of a number of bones, which inspire some bad puns and pretended misunderstandings here: the occipital is at the back, the temporal bones are at the ears, the ethmoid is a gateway to the sinuses, the parietal bones are the big side-bones of the head, and the frontal of course is the forehead.

Samson, you will remember, took out the Philistines with the jawbone of an ass, and the amygdala, the heart of the limbic system and seat of emotional memory in the brain, gets its name from the Greek word for "almond."

Zhoen said...

A tap or two... with the malleus? Against the incus? Or just shake the ossicles around to provide maracas?

I've always loved the acetabulum as a description of the space for the head of the femur. Vinegar bowl.

Luisa A. Igloria said...

Little almond,

glistening like a secret--
A thousand folded memories
live inside your modest house.

Anonymous said...

i love this blending of your knowledge of anatomy & your skill as a poet. :)

and of course, that great mind/imagination of yours.

Dale said...

:-) I didn't want to publish *real* instructions for dismantling skulls, Zhoen.

Acetabulum, yes, I'm just waiting for a poem I can slip that word into! -ulum at the end is a diminutive, you know -- like -ie, in Scots, where a little lass is a lassie. So it's a vinegar-dishie.

:-) Luisa, thank you so much! I understand Dave's impulse, I want to take this and post it right away.

Carolee, I made several anatomical blunders in the first draft. I hope I caught them all. I've got to do something to brush up my anatomy!

rbarenblat said...

Gorgeous, Dale!

JMartin said...

V. boffo, but I was particularly taken with:

amygdala, gleaming, and inlaid/
with rage and desire like parquetry

Exactly right, and also such a nice chain of association (almond shape/wood/parquet). The anatomy texts should so reflect.

So when can we expect the poems on gluteal amnesia? (I must stop reading the Men's Health snippets on Yahoo.)

Dale said...

Thanks Rachel & Julie!

Julie, I view the notion of gluteal amnesia with considerable suspicion. Any approach that reminds me too much of auto mechanics (oh! the spark plugs on your glutes ain't firin', Mac!) makes me skeptical, right out of the box. Maybe there's good hard science behind it, I haven't checked, but often people just make these things up.