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Bone Broth for Dirges

by Matthew Gavin Frank
Illustration by Lys Bui

Bone Broth for Dirges

Matthew Gavin Frank
2 Snaps

For Tony

Bone broth for dirges, for flowers

of fat, orange zest, and too many

clothes for this heat, for speeded

hearts and waiting for the steam

to go corporeal, for the Mozart

in the death metal, and greasy

soles, and a French hotel room 

in June, a ceiling fan, an unmade

bed, a bass drum at the bottom

of the stockpot, despairing fish

aghast in their nets.  Okay: our

nets.  When I spoon the soup

over the herbs, into my mouth,

it is the only soup, a month

of soups, and lost buttons, 

and all that diesel in the air,

of running screaming down

the street, overexposed

and underprepared for this

rain, the intensity and hotness

of it, the inadequate drainage,

the mud and your image in the mud,

sliding downhill to destroy

yet another small city on stilts.

This is not really a dirge, not

really music at all, but a heart

simmering in a sea of broth

until it becomes soft enough

to eat, coral or crab or 

the inexplicable light of the algae,

it is the gut-cries of sous chefs 

and the soaps of the dishwashers,

the gloves of them, the hot red

hands underneath, it is clean plates

and a knife coming at our heads

if the plates are cleaned too

slowly.  It is a sunset in a kitchen,

pinkish only due to poor ventilation,

low ceilings and no sleep for two

days, receipts on the floor, scales

on the floor, such a commingling

of blood, an entire string section

of blood, and the water down 

the drain and the smell of something

rotting in the walk-in that leads

only to perfect limes.  The collection

of the land-locked, the isthmuses,

the bones in our fish and broth

and bodies and children.  Here

is the table as the sky oven-

roasted.  Scorched, tonight.   

Still, I would feed you, though

the fork is inadequate, or,

my hands are.  Did you see

how Dmitri de-shelled that

crab?  Fresh news of the night:

its legs began to dance for you,

like blackbirds who, confusing

themselves for crows, ruin

your torso with their beaks.  Your

persona—as I understood it— 

would have loved this, approved 

of the inversion, the mistake, the wild 

feathers in the wild fluorescents. 

I miss you already, as the birds,

ever-rabid, make themselves sick 

while singing through your skin. 

This poem is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.

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