Bone Letters

By Nicelle Davis and Peter Schwartz

dear mandible,

the only food that doesn’t spoil is honey. this might not mean much to you but it does to me or once did. time is infiltrating you in ways I’m sure you don’t understand. softening you like dying pudding. women blink twice as much as men and polar bears are left-handed. when someone cries and the first drop of tears comes from the right eye, it’s happiness. if it comes from the left eye, it’s pain. cats are never mentioned in the bible. elephants are the only animal that can’t jump. a goldfish has a memory span of 3 seconds. sorry for the fallout.

dear maxilla,

it’s your own teeth, not me, who left you an empty mouth. useless. fact: the american revolution was nearly lost because of washington’s oral decay; red coats intercepting george’s love letters to his dentist would read, “send more morphine to location X”. british bullets would then travel X. consider your loss as a gift of infallibility. young men will not die because of your toothaches. I have suckled your gold replacements—your new smile’s substantial as honey. however, nothing can replace pulse. part of you now artificial—bites like a machine. he won the war when he gave up his bones.

dear sternum,

so you’ve opened your rabbit hole. cows that are given names give more milk so I’m looking forward to finding candy in all these anomalies. remembering ourselves, we’ll remember them: peanuts are an ingredient in dynamite, dolphins sleep with one eye open, whales can commit suicide, snails can sleep for 3 years, and most robberies occur on tuesdays. can anything help us? that the brain is 80% water, that human thigh bones are stronger than concrete, that the first alarm clock could only ring at 4 a.m.? I don’t know, but astronauts get taller in space.

dear clavicle,

your name means “little key.” did you know? originally a key was a status symbol—necklace advertising a need to defend property. like a crucifix. what do you protect? origin, keys were made not only to fit a lock, but to resemble the doors they opened. names give more names than cows have milk. sometimes I imagine you turning in me like dynamite in a dolphin’s restless eye. dead whale. 3 years have passed, yet everyday still feels like tuesday. you promised to never mention that other bone to me again.

it’s 4 a.m. I don’t know, but writing this makes the space between us seem taller.

dear fibula,

my name means nothing these days. an X on a postcard under a box of moon rocks. they’re counterfeiting everything now and I can’t tell what’s what. horses can’t vomit, butterflies taste with their feet, pearls melt in vinegar and ketchup was sold in the 1830’s as medicine. this makes me want to grab anything and cram it down my throat. you could have been my cure but I broke your back in 1985, we’ve never been the same since. I’ve run out of ways to say sorry so I’ll tell you this instead: non-dairy creamer is flammable. by the way if hell’s already happened, what exactly are we scared of?

dear humerus,

records show people have one chance in 2500 of breaking a humerus in the course of a year, one chance in 1600 of breaking one femurs. but there are many other bones—many other years—many chances of breaking at least once in a lifetime. mostly traffic accidents. some cultures are known for deforming bones deliberately. bind a baby’s head. heighten the arch of a foot. this requires breaking. child bones heal faster. it all happens with bleeding. teeth are the exception. teeth crumble. my mom called today. said she has two regrets: not enough family dinners, not enough dental hygiene.

dear sacrum,

it takes 72 different muscles to form human speech. your stomach must produce a new layer of mucus every two weeks or it would digest itself. you’re the survivor of your own poor escape. there are 45 miles of nerves in the skin which explains the wastelands. 48 million gallons of blood will be pumped. during a lifetime, during a 24-hour period, the average human will breathe 23 thousand times. the adult human body requires about 88 pounds of oxygen daily. it’s funny saying help this way, but it really does makes me picture your mother calling: your hand around a pen, sketching your own treasure map on a napkin from mars. there are approximately 60 muscles in the face.

Nicelle Davis lives in Southern California with her son J.J. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Broadsided, Front Range, FuseLit, Mosaic, ML Press, The New York Quarterly, Offending Adam, PANK, Picture Postcard Press, SLAB Magazine, Two Review, and others. She’d like to acknowledge her poetry family at the University of California, Riverside and Antelope Valley Community College. She runs a free online poetry workshop at The Bees’ Knees Blog.

Peter Schwartz’s poetry has been featured in The Collagist, The Columbia Review, Diagram, and Opium Magazine. His latest collection Old Men, Girls, and Monsters was published as part of the Achilles Chapbook Series. He’s an interviewer for the PRATE Interview Series, a regular contributor to The Nervous Breakdown, and the art editor for DOGZPLOT.


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03/04 • Steve Cushman
03/11 • Rita Taryan
03/18 • Jessica Purdy
03/25 • TBD