Chasing crickets through alpine meadows,
my sisters and I stumble over bones
sprawled in a grove of blackberry vines.
Alone. The ants
the flies
the worms
have gone, and left
behind a clean silhouette
sterilized by sunbeams
that fall as arrows
from the center of the sky.

We gather around the quiet
assembly, and the girl who
spotted them plucks the first one
from the soil and pronounces its name:
Rib Scapula Femur Skull
Then the rest of us dig in.

We don’t know or care about
our own mortality
as we excavate pearly fossils
from rain-muddied soil.
Doe? Stag? Elk?
The earth tangles around them,
root and clay grip their claim.
We brace the bones against
our flesh and compare sizes,
rib to rib,
jaw to jaw,
skull to skull;
hoary teeth bare feral grins.
See how animals hide these
puzzles beneath their skins?

The sun swings low, and now
we scramble bone fragments
into new structures,
tumult of voices and hands.

The tailbone is sharp,
it will make a horn. Let’s put
kneecaps on its feet so it can
roll really fast. Line up
the vertebrae and lay a rib below
each arch, and look what you get:

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