The Bones She Keeps

By Kelli Russell Agodon

Previously published in Small Knots (Cherry Grove Collections, 2004)

When we look at the teeth
we guess coyote, not dog.

And this? The shoulder blade of a seal,
or perhaps, a river otter.

There is a bone on every windowsill.

What about this? A cat? A skunk?
I see part of a jawbone in the white
curve she holds in her palm,
the spine of a raccoon.

And when we line them up,
this white alphabet of what is left,
a new species is born across the table.

I mention the cow skull I found
on a Mexican highway,
how I brought it back
to my apartment, dropped it
in a bucket of bleach,

only to watch black legs emerge,
the widow exiting an eye socket.

Even now, I can’t think of bone
without remembering the spider,
how the living always make room
in the spaces the dead leave behind.