A Discourse

Original Text: 

Phyllis Gotlieb, Red Blood, Black Ink, White Paper: new and selected poems, 1961-2001 (Toronto: Exile Editions, 2002): 53-57. PS 8513.O77R33 Robarts Library

1the skeleton's the most articu-
3about Who made him. It's not
4graveyards he rattles in but
5you and me; skeletons
6chase butterflies and do the
8redroom of the flesh
9                                    starting
10from the grounded arches of
11Man's first pedestal the
13baby needs shoes for, not
14the ones that get them,
15keystones for
16                         legs of
17concern to dashers and prancers
18stylers and milers fencers fandancers
19romancers advancers
20and retreaters
21                        unsinewed a collection
22of bones named after
23skillets and safety pins
25the skeleton's oaktree, in the old
26soon broken least mended
27has little to recommend it
28in a poem except in the thunderclaptrap
32to notify it yet a crown of bones
33in the woman the royal
34colander drains
35life from the sea
36waters of the uterine cavern
37and
39named after the cuckoo
40connects with old jokes of banana
41peels but the Pelvis
42attaches that column of latin
44in form
45eschew connotations of
46ramrod or spinelessness, choose
47for symbol the integral,
49integers stacked like
50lecture chairs but cushioned in use
52let heads held high
53glare each other in the eye
54and swear
58seem to belong to dolphins
59rather than the ribcage
60called cavity crammed with vitals
62noted for the top two that help
63you nod or shake
64so superbly lubricated only
65the heart goes creak
67in this district, a bone
68without visible means of support
69silent and anonymous in
70the mugbook of the anatomist
71but the arms have apparatus!
73doubles the spine's integral
74over the stave of the Ribs most
75graceful of all body
76spans from Sternum to Scapula a
77flat plate and the base of wings in angels
78armsocket in Mankind;
80Radius and Ulna are staff and support
81for that fan that pinwheel that unbeached
82starfish the hand: I think of arms raised
83lotus columns of Egypt
84buttressed by shouldermuscle
85and finally fingers touching tips
86over the Skull, full
87circle from the Phalanges we began with
90to me, the only one I met
91in person, as a child
92                                    my medschool
93cousin used a sawed-off
94skulltop for ashtray I thought
95the flakes inside were dried remains
96of brains, bonepink shocked me reading
100                                  when
101you put your lefthand
102fingers into the inter-
103stices of your right is how
105in the noble Cranium the base
106doesn't look that neat
107but none the less suffices
108                                           the
110of the great oracle with its flutes and coils
113give children those apple
114cheeks
117termed ephemeral for
119the Auditory Ossicles a
121what goes bump in the night, usually
122the kid falling out of bed on his
125from the brain to the neural telegraph
127tree in lands I have no visa for
128balled in a burlap of triple
130brain's a thing contained and only
131container of everything best left
132cased under the lock and key of its senses
133bridge span arch imply
134traffic
135              in the complex I
136admire most the Foramina piercing
138arcades where nerve and vein pass through
139providentially
140and begin to define the flesh
141the spirit's limits have their arbiters
142but I know where the devil
143starts

Notes

2] articu-/late: characterized by segments linked by movable joints; talkative. Back to Line
7] Monster Mash: a big song hit in 1962 by the singer Bobby "Boris" Pickett and his back-up singers the Cryptkickers. The son of a movie theatre owner, like Gotlieb, Pickett got his nickname doing impressions of the actor Boris Karloff, who played the monster in Frankenstein. Back to Line
12] Tarsals: bones connecting the foot to the leg. Phalanges: the digital (toe) bones. Back to Line
24] Femur: upper leg bone connecting to the thigh and so termed also the thighbone. Back to Line
29] The intercondylar notch of the femur appears between the condyles (the knobs made by knuckle joints) at the bone's distal (lower) end and houses the cruciate ligaments. Back to Line
30] The larger of two prominences, at the proximal (upper) end of the femur, that serve as places for attaching muscles and ligaments. Back to Line
31] basin-like structure of different bones linking the backbone to the femurs. Back to Line
38] coccyx: tailbone, the lowest, fused four-or-so vertebrae of the backbone that guard the guts. Back to Line
43] Sacrum: five fused vertebrae that fix the spine to the pelvic girdle. Back to Line
48] Originally a long s, meaning summa, Latin for `sum.' Back to Line
51] atrophy: shrink, weaken. Back to Line
55] lumbago: muscular rheumatism of the lower vertebrae of the backbone, just above the sacrum. Back to Line
56] absorbine junior: a fluid linament that eases or eliminates arthritic pain. Back to Line
57] thorax: chest area between the neck and the abdomen. the Dorsals: back surfaces of the body. Back to Line
61] cervical vertebrae: the uppermost seven vertebrae, the atlas (which bears the weight of the skull), the axis (which enbales the atlas to pivot and so the skull to turn), and the five lower segments, named only by their number, from 1 to 5. Back to Line
66] hyoid: ligaments attach this to the temporal bone (which containd the inner ear) and anchor the tongue. Back to Line
72] clavicle: each clavicle or collarbone, found at the front of the shoulders, attaches to the sternum (the frontal, mid-chest vertical bone) and a lateral triangular shoulder blade or scapula. Back to Line
79] humerus: upper arm, attached to the shoulder blade, and linked to the lower arm, which comprises two longish slender bones, the ulna (on the little finger side of the forearm) and the radius (on the thumb side of the forearm), to which is attached the wrist. Back to Line
88] bridge-like. Back to Line
89] `bridge-maker,' one of the council of priests in early Rome. Back to Line
97] alkali: soluble salts including potassium and sodium carbonate. Back to Line
98] concave: rounded like the inside of a bowl. Back to Line
99] cortex: outer gray layer of the brain's cerebrum and cerebellum. arteriole: the twig-like end of an artery that flows into capillaries or very small blood vessels. Back to Line
104] Frontal: the frontal lobes, the largest part of the cerebral hemispheres, have convoluted ridges running between sulci or grooves. Parietals: the side upper-to-middle lobes of the cerebral hemispheres. Back to Line
109] Ethmoid: a squarish bone between the eye sockets at the base of the nose. Back to Line
111] Temporals: the lowest lobes, located beneath the Sylvian fissure, a deep furrow that separates the temporal lobe from the frontal lobe. Back to Line
112] Zygomatics: the parts of the skulls pertaining to the cheekbones. Back to Line
115] Sphenoid: bones at the base of the skull. Back to Line
116] Conchae: the turbinate, two shell-like projections from the ethmoid bone that form ledges on the inside of the nasal cavity. Palatines: bones relating to the palate or the roof of the mouth. Back to Line
118] The three bones of the middle ear, named after their shapes, the stirrup (stapes), hammer (malleus), and anvil (incus). Back to Line
120] tone poem: a poem where sound greatly exceeds content. Back to Line
123] Occiput: the back of the skull. Back to Line
124] Foramen Magnum: the largest of the holes in the skull, a round opening at the base of the skull through which the sinal cord nerves enter. Back to Line
126] vascular: having to do with blood and other vessels in the body. Back to Line
129] triple / membranes: the meninges. Back to Line
137] phagocytes: white blood-cells, destroyers of bacteria. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
1969
Publication Notes: 

Ordinary, moving (1969).

RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
2003
Special Copyright: 

Copyright 2002 Red Blood Black Ink White Paper Exile Editions