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On The Advantages of an Endoskeleton This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

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And it is nothing but this: a framework
Full of ulna, radial with struts of porous
Crustacea, brittle and frail as the embodiment
Of a tibia; though phalanges can fret
Without fretting guitar strings, their own ligaments
That can connect and make you feel your nerves
Through your synovial fluid, pooling in the knowledge
That they are wholly there, and speak inside deeply
Of the hidden tenderness of the animus,
Anima, not man, though he might be young and supple,
And bite the thick bass string with the tip
Of my vibrating teeth; to prevent ossification
I keep air spaces within my marrow like the webbed
Wing-bones of a bird; I can now see behind
Nothing but the skin, and see the tarsals and metatarsals
Moving to their endless jittery rhythm, and what is it
But this framework, which hands out blood cells
In tiny soup packages and provides a hanging
Frame for muscles; some structure to wind supple
Among some tender sensitive vein. And there is
No need for anyone to shed their skin and to
Sigh in new relief—in seven lives we may
Use just one, because within the skeleton
Consumes quietly in its own enlarging way—
Stealthily, so that we may not even notice what gives
Us our shape, and a boy however young
Can be stared at as a case study in the intricacies
Of human biology, and those self-repairing cells
That through their own dying, soothe trauma
And leave behind their minute skeletons
To create more, growing denser: o healing stone, dying saviour.
Now it can also stretch to full length of taut tendons,
Elliptical limbs, elusive arabesques both within
The cranium and out, impulses coursing
Through the carpals and on to the metacarpals
And endlessly out: receptor, axon, synapse
All diffuse on to our daily known reality—
And then to attach, to hang together like
A delicate knitted string, to be whole,
To not be an inch wasted, to be intricately
Intimate with one’s own bones; and to
Move, to flex the vertebrae, and when they slip
Slightly out of place to run fingertips down
Your spine to find the missing spot, and
Tenderly correct your very structure. To
Reach out one’s arms, to touch and feel
Knuckle on knuckle, bone on bone: when
All is stripped down to pure knowledge it is
The only thing inside; the first and the last,
All same, no pelvic girdle to distinguish man
From woman, only one less bar in the strength
Of the ribcage; a bleached sister to light the way
Through rooms into a living death in which we
See one another’s skeletons through the skin,
And recognise them to be the same—and then
Contact, sweet and meaningless. The delicacy of the
Artwork to knit together and come apart,
Together and apart; tangled and entwined, whole and alone,
Keeping in turn a constant rhythm of what little
We can give from our pale skin, our cigarette-paper
Substance, of the fact it is inside and nowhere else
So we can feel over every inch of our body
A slight touch, a shivering of breath. And there now
Is that breath coming from deep in the solar plexus
So that there might be a delicate crystallisation
Of someone’s frail but beautiful voice, and then
Under the familiar skin I can trace the arch
Of your scapulae as the curve up and down,
Perfectly elliptical, creasing the skin of your back
To reach out to some other part of the world—
The clavicle knows. It is attached, and responds.
And I can see skeletons in them all, in the shape of them,
Invisible and hidden by a frail wavering love—
“It is inside me, so I will not let you see.
It is too precious, in meaning, in truth
it is sacred. Leave it, for it is artwork not to be beheld living.”



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