Sunday, October 31, 1982


          —for Bill Snow

Some members of the Donner Party didn't wait for spring.
Their bones grew new coats of skin.
The survivors slept, dreaming of hot ash bonfires
remembered the earth was a vast burial ground
but did nothing.

Deep inside, the earth shuddered.
Liquid bones of molten lava tried to escape
& snow soothed the terrible thirst
from their hearts.

They say beauty is only skin-deep.
Skin stretched over the cheekbones of women
means nothing without inner structure.
Leaves are homeless without
wind-polished femurs of trees
to hold them to sunlight.

Look to the architecture of bones for strength.
Without them, holding snow would be impossible.
Mountains would bleed back into the sea.

In spring, no skin would slough off
to reveal the bare-boned mountains.
Who keeps moving the bones?
Soon they will rise up
& reassemble themselves
but the pattern is forgotten
& the earth's strength is altered.

Bare bones. Hidden bones.
For a year, Albion Ridge
swallowed the bones of young girls.
The murder was not avenged.
No one lit hot ash bonfires for them.

Their skin sank into the earth in a slow trickle
& the trees were the only ones left to listen
to the soft music
of skin falling from bones.


1985 Napa Poetry Review
1984 Deepest Valley Review
1983 Poets of the Vineyard, 2nd Prize
1983 ARC/Rural Arts Services
1983 Poets of the Vineyards, 2nd prize

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