Five Practical Posthumous Uses for Human Bones by Matthew Burns


Phalanges, twenty, bleached: line the white mantle in winter, candelabra of memory and
loss, gone fingers pointing up to a sky as unconcerned as dirt. Picket fence, tiny pikes upon
which you impale everything unsaid.

Polished radius: weaker side, engrained with antipathy: shaped and sharpened: a bread knife
or scythe. Grain of field, grain of bone. An arm to reach out and reap and bring toward
some feast. Hunger will never cease, and we need to eat.

Sternum (shorn of ribs): doubtless: axehead/maul. Guard of heart for hardwood to be
split—black birch, bur oak, something that burns long and hot. Shape a handle of hickory;
hone and lash tight before the first strike.

Right patella: paperweight for utility bills, bundled junk, anything to be ground into soil.

Hyoid, broken, crushed, gilded: necklace, raw gold chain, worn slightly higher on the neck
than comfortable: jaw beneath jaw, tacit mandible. Ghost of some gone voice healed after
six weeks of silence. Tie just tight enough to bite into the throat’s fine skin, to remember to
speak again.


MATTHEW BURNS teaches in upstate New York. His poem “Rhubarb” won a James Hearst Poetry Prize from North American Review; other poems have received Pushcart and Best of the Net nominations and have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Posit, ellipsis..., Raleigh Review, Camas, Spoon River, Quiddity, LimeHawk, and others.