Dear Skull

beloved braincase, body’s bleeding heart

helmet law


dear ribs thick with implied meat, disused central

railroad, reverse spec house unplumbed

to propitious frame


dear double-strung forearm, dear violin bow,


dear pachyderm-eared pelvis,


dear barnacle spine—


tolerate this animate interlude, nervous tic of cell & swoosh,

elasticity & vein


& you’ll emerge, democratically beautiful,


armature to nothing


you’ll make the case for stasis, grow

each year more ravishingly still


yes, the flesh is weak,

but you are forged of patience,


ill inclined to cheer or mourn

the extraneous


—respiration, cartilage—as it trundles away


Emily Van Kley’s poems have appeared in Nimrod, the Iowa Review, Crab Orchard Review, and Best New Poets 2013, among others. She is also a recipient of the Iowa Review Award and the Florida Review Editor’s Award. Her most recent project is an exchange of poems and images with the textile artist Sonja Dahl for 7×7.