Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Dem Bones



Dr. Loomis sought to understand the skeletal structure of the human arm and hand.



Why does the upper arm have just one long bone (the humerus),

While the forearm boasts two (the radius and ulna)?

Further, why does this progression expand and bloom into five phalanges, or fingers?



Consider the humerus first, the doctor advises his young students.

It springs from the shoulder and, in turn, from the torso, as solid and utilitarian as a wagon wheel.

The simple single bone (he continues),

Facilitates the straightforward actions of warfare or farming:

Thrust.

Cut.

Bury.

Reap.



Why does this simplicity give way to ambivalence?

(No useful postulations issue from the students' gallery.)

Perhaps the radius and ulna reflect the conflicting urges to grasp and to draw back.

Combined with the gender-based, inherent split in all bones--

The masculine "robust" and the feminine "gracile"--

We have, clearly, a limb at odds with itself, shaking apart, disintegrating into ever more numerous shoots and branches.

Fine for botany, observes Dr. Loomis dryly (eliciting a ripple of superior chuckles from his charges),

But it will hardly do for human anatomy.



The double bones of the forearm may suffice for slightly more complex motions,

Such as operating a weaver's shuttle, or manipulating the mechanisms of a weapon,

But, when speaking of finer tasks,

(For example):



Writing a letter to inform that a loved one has died,

Or,

Touching a lovers' skin, puzzling whether silence denotes contentment or ennui,



These things require the bizarre profusion of digits at limbs' end,

A removal from what is really understood,

And distance from the rational mind, locked in its bony case.



With this,

Dr. Loomis rejects medicine and turns to astrology, religion, and superstitious rite.

"People die,

Lovers leave,"

He tells the unfinished faces looking up at him, as his students pause in their note taking.

"I haven't the god damnedest idea why."



Then, he crumbles,

Collapsing onto the single wooden chair beside the dais,

His tired face hidden in his folded arms with their troika of perplexing, vexing, ridiculous bones.

_______

17 comments:

Rene/ Not The Rockefellers said...

ringa-ding-ding ! :)

Brian Miller said...

i for one am glad we have 5 fingers...and no i will not tell you why...

hedgewitch said...

"..A removal from what is really understood,/And distance from the rational mind, locked in its bony case..." a devious and subtle poem of the conflicts within us and between us, deep as our bones, of form following function,simplicity versus emotional complexity, and of course both the limitations and painful restraints of what passes for reason...your metaphor is exquisitely on target all the way through.

And they could never make a show like The Prisoner now, could they?

mac said...

I always wondered, like perhaps Dr Loomis, why the humerus had such a humorous spelling.

Patricia Caspers said...

Ooh, I love it's pondering ways, and, of course, that ending is delightful.

Sioux said...

"I haven't the god damnedest reason why." A perfect line, and a perfect pairing of the serious with a whiff of whimsy...

(You snagged a great spirit, as usual.)

Lisa said...

How come Brian got one more finger than I did?

Lisa said...

never mind. i'd rather not know...

blueoran said...

Body and soul, brain and mind, bone and branch: Whaddayagonna do, Doctor, about this incoherent mash of biology and angelology? Write it, sd. the poet. Make it Blossom, though weirdly, wildly. The poem is perfect traipse from all we know to what we can't, that stuff we'd be willing to give our left humerus for. I like better the science of Paracelus, who knew that only fire could cure fire. - Brendan

Lynn said...

Goodness gracious! :)

Daryl said...

Totally love this .. poor Dr Loomis

Sherry Blue Sky said...

How do you know so many things? and how do you COME UP WITH these incredible ideas? You amaze, as always.

Raven said...

Wow! Utterly fantabulous, yet again. Do you ever tire of hearing how much you totally rock and how astounded I am by your creative brilliance?

Mama Zen said...

This is amazing. Unfinished faces - what a marvelous description.

ellen abbott said...

finally, a science lesson that I get.

Lolamouse said...

If my profs had been this interesting, maybe I would've listened in class!

Ami Mattison said...

OMG, Shay! What an amazing and clever and quite extended metaphor for the quandries of emotions and bodies. The professor's confusion suggest that he is indeed a professor and not at all a poet who knows how even anatomy escapes explanation. Fine poem!