Giving Up the Bones -Lynne Shapiro

— For Nicrophorus americanus, once endangered,
now extirpated in New Jersey

Upon arrival I circle the cabin relieved
to find no thieves in our absence
and no snakes.  Instead
alongside rising Indian Pipe ghostly white
I meet stillness of a fallen thrush, and stoop
to examine the freckled breast, the throat absent
its identifying warble and the delicately beaded lashes
that surround hollows
that mistook glass for sky.
First victim of spring I tell myself
at least I will take it home tomorrow
boil it and pluck feathers – study the bones.
I leave it on the porch overnight and
walking to the outhouse at dawn
I see the carcass reeling,Upon arrival I circle the cabin relieved
to find no thieves in our absence
and no snakes.  Instead
alongside rising Indian Pipe ghostly white
I meet stillness of a fallen thrush, and stoop
to examine the freckled breast, the throat absent
its identifying warble and the delicately bead
one wing opens and shuts like a harmonium
a silent eerie rhythm in the low light before daybreak.
Closer in, I observe two carrion beetles
orange-red and shiny black,
two sextons who maneuver together
to shift their Gulliver’s weight and carry him
in an hours long procession
toward a hole dug earlier.
Chickadees and their usual entourage of
titmice, black and whites, and brown creepers
punctuate the canopy with tiny surround sounds,
doves in the distant insert mournful coos.
As the sun rises, the morning’s coolness shifts,
the air stills. As the beetles reach the mouth
of the hole, the heat of the day to come is evident.
They cut the body loose and the partners
descend into the underworld with my bird,
spoils enough to nourish dozens
of futures I will not see.


Lynne ShapiroLynne Shapiro is a writer and teacher who has had poems and essays published in such journals as CV2, Mslexia, Terrain.org, and Platte Valley Review. As well, her work has been included in such anthologies as Eating Her Wedding Dress, A Collection of Clothing Poems and Decomposition: An Anthology of Fungi Inspired Poems. She recently co-edited Dark As A Hazel Eye, Coffee & Chocolate Poems for Ragged Sky Press. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart prize.