Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence


Ellen Bass
Prairie Schooner, Vol. 86, No. 3 (Fall 2012)

You’ve seen these photos before,
empty bird cage ribs of a child
sitting in the dust.
But this copper, naked body,
shining supine on the front page
of August 2, 2011,
seems more insect than child,
swollen chest, a thorax,
bent limbs jutting at angles,
hip fleshless as the joint
of a Jerusalem cricket,
skull bug, niña de la tierra.
Though her brow is hidden
in the shadow of her arm,
ulna and radius, the crested head
of the humerus show through sheer skin.
Even the ear has given up its lobe,
the fuzz of hair, thinned.
She’s hollow, a mandolin,
polished wood, gleaming.
How long can she last
twisted on the flowered cloth, maybe
a sheet or her mother’s dress.
No one sings here. Not even birds.
Light reflects off every curve,
the veins of her feet rise up like scars.
Her soles, pale as a creature
who’s been unearthed.