To comprehend a nectar
Requires the sorest need. — Emily Dickinson
There is little to say about dry chicken bones
except that their splinters are hard and sharp,
and how these make such a painful connection
to the harsh retching sounds of a dog’s struggle
as he opens and closes his mouth.
Yet, if I did not believe in blue,
I could not have seen my love’s dark eyes
in that moment of shimmer,
the intimate luminance that brushes the heart
the way birds flying dawn will sketch the sky,
a completeness that radiates in colors and form
for a picture more brilliant than light,
and because of this I understand better
the import of foregrounding clouds,
how grey will shape and flatten the infinite,
shadow the clearness we hold,
shift the perspective of hope to hardness
and all too quickly arrive
at the yawing mouth of a struggling dog,
here, on a kitchen floor canvas,
with a brush of red splintered bones.
Elegy from an Archaeological Field School
They lived hard, high
on the Mogollon Rim among dark pines.
They painted pottery in polychromes
of red and white, finely shaped, and planted
corn in spring soil cool after rain.
from salt seas adorned their arms,
and, from the tropics, bright feathered
parrots perched in their homes.
Too often, mothers young with newborns
buried on their chests, their rib bones
woven with the baby’s — a bone basket
of mother and child gathered together,
cloistered in bone song.
Too often too, children under ten
buried in graves empty of offerings,
empty of comfort for one last journey,
empty of the pueblo’s grieving
close to birth was further from love:
two large pottery shards used
to scrape a fetus from a dirt floor
uncovered in a garbage pit,
and between the shards, tiny notes
of their song — like those from a small bird.
Tony Luebberman moved to Tucson in 1969, attended graduate school, and worked for local government. In 2010, he completed an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Finishing Line Press published his chapbook, A Short Anatomy of Doorknobs in 2015. He has poems published in Cutthroat, EOAGH, and Sacred Waters. He volunteers at the University of Arizona Poetry Center as a docent and serves on the Center’s Development Council.