Katie Herman


A tooth that’s not a tooth,
a mottled clump of bone,
a pelvis chipped and warped,
a joint that wouldn’t join surely—

the model beside the fossil shows
the articulated ridge, the rounded
socket where the ball
of the femur’s meant to fit,

a shape that in the real thing
is obscure, like a replica made
of unfired clay that’s been pressed
by a palm into dirt.

This is what the body retains,
pinned up on display
and neatly labeled: combat,
fall, and daily wear,

fractured elbow, broken
patella, slightly comminuted,
meaning crushed. Something to show,
yes, but none of this,

this standing—being here,
this stillness before
the once-bones in the museum,
friends already passed

through the exhibit, this marking
what the markers most mark—
the absence around them,
this being that absence.


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