RwA 5.3: Blood and Bone

“Write what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to be split open.”

― Natalie GoldbergWriting Down the Bones


 A Definition of Poetry

                        Why is it the
                        investigator always
                                    a pool of blood,
                        inserts two fingers,
                        rubs and smells
                                    the blood,
                        then gravely announces
                        it is fresh?

–> M. Kelly Peach



            you can use your own keys
open unknown doors                          close them

turn white to black                  strike
            something new

            you can create worlds
                                                destroy them

you      can be unfaithful        foreign
            you can be the opposite sex

            you can make the past
another planet

the future        present tense

            in your parallel universe
there can be
         can be a happy ending

         what you don’t want
you kiss to death with crosses    backspace

–> Fiona Ritchie Walker

ast Perfect

Dear girl-I-was—always tight shouldered and panting over an icy ceramic sink, 
cheap Bic with a slimy aloe-strip still singing into the never-seen pale of your thigh,
a swiped bio lab pipette dropping a white-out of bleach into the shocked cuts—
come close and let me show you a trick. We’re caged in grammar, the me you are always 
happening in the imperfect past: I say, I was bleeding, and you are looking 
into the cold mirror again, meeting pupils huge as charred fire pits after rain.
That consuming emptiness, the flat black of forever / still / again in a verb of being 
continuous and anticoagulant. What would you do to have an end? 
Watch closely: The sun is white and wipes out the trees as it rises. I am the you 
you will be for the last time—the pen drops from my hand like a razor falling through 
a cold sinkfull of water. I bled once. I had bled.

–> Erinn Batykefer

“Tapestry” by Marge Simon

The Robber’s House is Rigged

It is one thing to say
You should have known better,
And another to be
Taken and sliced
Precisely, cuts of veal,
And placed in a pot.

It is one thing to think
“You were too stupid
To avoid it,”
And another to see
No way out, no matter how
You wish and plan.

In the world, in a tale,
Every choice is a gamble—
Leave the egg, take the key,
Drop the egg, drop the key—
The Robber’s house is rigged,
No action guarantees salvation.

When the binary choices of 
“Choose your own adventure”
Fail, what is left to you?
Feathers, honey, a skull
Crowned in flowers?

The chutzpah to roll in the remainders,
Don disguises too foolish to consider.

When the game can’t be won,
Rip the page, 
Raid the bones.

–> Dr. Sara Cleto and Dr. Brittany Warman


Radical Surgery

For the good of the poem 

You must
the confessional
the frivolous
the meaningless
the self-referential
the sentimental
the occasional
the accidental

You must
the words that curdle
the lines that whine
the stanzas that abandon
the worst
of the night verse

You will
to contemplate
what you’ve lost

You may
read it
in times of need
if you must

–> Kathryn Paulsen



Six months pregnant
I stood on swollen heels
in his kitchen,
paper plate slacking under salad,
lasagna, bread, and beans. 

He crept up behind me,
pressed his cheek to mine,
Don’t jump, 
slid a wide hand
around and over my belly.

My freeze melted
into a hot oil of terror
at this touch,
my mother’s fiancé
the night before their wedding,
a man I’d known
a handful of months. 

How kind she was
when I made this confession,
my heart like storm drops.
And how
ten years later,
she mocked my discomfort
for that night
I ruined for her,
for my weakness,
for my wrongness,
for my misinterpreting
unwanted touch
as unwanted touch.

Victim shaming
gas lighting
all in one bitter string
I bit to break.

But you see, Mother,
Stepfather, right here,
I get the last word.

–> Becky Nicole James


Maybe I Can Dream a Title

If only words
would grow out of me—
as bedrift and calm
as morning shadows
shifting light
over a planked pine floor—
rather than wrenched
from my mind like hairs
warily snatched
one by one
off a guillotined head
balding a generous patch
of scalp, until standing
naked and bold, the chosen
stare up at me asking,
“Are you finished?
Are we a poem?”

–> Barbara Reynolds


Last Generation: The Undertaker Examines the Bones of the Last Dead Aboard the Ship


For each cut I                                                  say we had changed, we,

make in the bones                                           less bound by gravity,

I tell myself: this is not                                     of the ship and not                             

a bone, but a fragment                                    of the new planet–

of what has already been                                does it matter that we were

given to the ship.  A life recorded                  shaped differently

and gone.  Like the others,                             (if in minor ways)  

I inscribe the names and dates                        from our ancestors on Earth?

of the deceased on their                                  Reminders

right distal phalanges, their causes                 of childhood, when I collected little birds’  

of death or causes that moved                      bones, hollow and fated

them through life here.                                   for reuse.  What I wanted

When the time came, need                             was to see what I’d

called for all the past dead’s                           read about once: the sudden flash,

bones to be disinterred, ground                      light from the sunset, catching

up for what was useful.  These bones              the white figures

we’d meant to inter on the new                       soaring, seemingly still–

planet once we’d reached it,                           did we ever know what

bones we’d scanned, everything                     a sun’s passage meant?

on them recorded again.  Still,                        beneath these lights

I inscribe the names and dates                        that fade, that do not make

of the dead, then take                                      the illusion of motion of one

pictures before that bone too                          around the other, we

must be mined for what is                              collected what we thought

scarce.  My children asked me                       or hoped we could protect,

if i will continue this practice                         knowing we couldn’t.

once we have all                                             you must adapt there, once

landed on the new planet’s                             memory of this ship as a home–

surface.  I tell them we keep                           the inverse of a home–

calling the ship                                               becomes a fact

by the wrong name: isn’t it                             of ancestry, or the illusion

a ship so much as a map.                                of ancestry.  Your children

We return to what we know                            will be shaped by what

cannot be true: these bones                             we were shaped by: gravity,

that never touched us                                      or what you can find

directly, these bones that only                         on the surface of a place that

shaped the contact between us–                     you must shape in return–

–> T.D. Walker


Riddled with Arrows 5.3:
“Eulogies, Epilogues, & Effigies”
Foreword: After Words
Contents | Contributors
To the SeaEarth to Earth
Dust in the Wind | Featured Fiction
Writing Endings