Poem of the Month: February 2009

skull



Skull
An old Spitalfields boneyard,
where each step,
hiccups across soft November ground.
Later, when you have dug a little deeper,
you learn to take more care.
For this was rush hour
for these crammed together, commuting dead,
and the plosive popping, their egg-shell skulls.

I ask you to steal me one.

You tell me that it’s illegal,
to own a human body part,
a skeleton, a single bone,
unless the nature of your job demands it,
I tell you that poets are committed
to questions of mortality,
and that we require constant reminders
of our temporary flesh.

A skull would be just the thing.

You are not convinced,
talk of a fellow archaeologist,
who took one home with him,

as others might take Sellotape and pens.
I think of it travelling on the tube,
stuffed deep in his rucksack,
grinning a limestone rictus in the darkness,
as it bumps against his lunch box;

of it enjoying central heating in Wembley.

You shatter this illusion when you say,
that unable to bear the guilt
he returned it soon after,
and left it on a heap of shattered femurs.

He wasn’t a poet, then.

© James Morgan Nash [Coma Songs, Grassroots Press, September 2003, 2006]