the museum of americana

a literary review

Recreating Sue—Poetry by Zilka Joseph

—T-Rex Fossil, Field Museum, Chicago

Mansion of fleshless bone,
            house of life and house of death—
            who were you once?

            How we love to claim,
            name, complete you. Yes,
                        Sue found you. And now

you are brought to heel,
            made famous, pinned
            to a pedestal, your naked

            beams of yellow bone
            reset, the rafters and scaffolds
                        that once held your skin,

your flesh-
            eating flesh, redone. How
            shall we reconstruct

            the history of your hollow
            eyes? Your heel bones
                        are stilled, your jaws

full of teeth
            a coral reef for the starved fish
            of our imagination. Whose rib

            conjured the cage
            that became your chest, the country
                        of each vertebrae? Every tibia,

fibula, and metatarsus
            is a little city. The empty
            Mesozoic temple

            of your head has lost
            its doors, its windows have fallen
                        into a forest of giant

fern that only grows
            thicker. Everything once
            turned toward the sun,

            everything had eyes,
            claws, hunger. How
                        shall we say it ended? A heavy hand

pressed down upon the earth? Or
            did it rain meteors
            for forty nights

            and forty days? Did someone
            simply say, No room
                        for you—as a star never seen before

rose in the east? No space
            for you. Even on the ark.
            But now, we say you

lived – in a way. It was
            your distant cousin, the dove,
            that flew

            above the flood. Still,
            we argue, where do you
                        fit in? Meanwhile, rising

minute by minute, the river
            filled each chamber
            of your mammoth

            reptile heart. Veins
            gave in to sand, flesh
                        cleaved to earth. The calcareous

core of your bones resisted
            the suck of soggy marsh,
            made peace with the water,

            and remembering some ancient
            bond, claimed kinship
                        to rock, became it.

 
 
~~~
Zilka Joseph was nominated twice for a Pushcart prize. Her work has appeared in Poetry, Poetry Daily, Kenyon Review Online, MQR, Asia Literary Review, Review Americana, Gastronomica, and Cheers To Muses: Works by Asian American Women. Her chapbooks, Lands I Live In and What Dread, were nominated for a PEN America and a Pushcart award respectively. Her book of poems Sharp Blue Search of Flame was published by Wayne State University Press and was a finalist for the Foreword Indies Book Award. She teaches creative writing workshops and is a freelance editor and manuscript coach. http://www.zilkajoseph.com