Melissa Helton

2014 Poetry Contest Judge's Choice 



Our bones are without creed, or sex appeal,
color, or wealth, or orientation. 
Our bones are the universal, the armature 
on which all our dividedness hangs. 

They are our map, the truth of where we come from, 
where we are going. They are better teachers 
than the Word of God, better to navigate by than the stars. 

She laughs that when he dies, she will keep his wide span 
of ribcage to make a dog house. He laughs 
that when she dies he will keep her long femurs 
to threaten neighborhood boys wanting to date their daughters. 

The truth is, they are scared of death. 
Scared not necessarily of what comes after 
or what will be missed in the soap opera of the living, 

but rather, afraid that they will be happy to be dead, 
happy to shuck off their skin and tendons and meat 
like a taffeta prom dress on a cheap hotel room floor, 

happy to lay down their bones next to each other, 
rib cages snagging together like those damned Slinkys,
impossible to untangle, toe bones and finger bones clattering
into a domino pile, skulls rolling away from their necks 

and telling each other stories as the teeth fall out and away 
like dandelion seed fluff in the wind 
when a child gasps in a breath and makes a wish.



Melissa Helton is Assistant Professor of English, and she lives and writes on her family's subsistence farm in southeastern Kentucky. Her poems and photography have been published in The Notebook, Things I Have to Tell You, and Motif v.4.


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