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THE WANT BONE, by         Recitation by Author     Poem Explanation     Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography
First Line: The tongue of the waves tolled in the earth's bell
Subject(s): Desire; Love

The tongue of the waves tolled in the earth's bell.
Blue rippled and soaked in the fire of blue.
The dried mouthbones of a shark in the hot swale
Gaped on nothing but sand on either side.
The bone tastes its own absence, and its essence
Is found, and lost, and found again, and again lost.
The shark's jawbone that ground rock and flint into dust
And sucked the shark's teeth, fossilized, from the rock
And ground the teeth up also:
The shark's jaw,
Like a section of white seafloor, quivers,
And the rock moves back. The tongue of the waves,
The widow's tongue, the want-bone, lies in the quicksand
And at the tide's low reaches into the ledge caves
Where aeons ago your heel-print sundialled
The golden atoms of the radium ore.
When the heel was a part of the weather's report
And the weather was one with the seabird's cry,
The tide was a wind. The wind lifted the mashed
Spray from the tops of the waves, and the flying
Surf, like the beard plucked from an old man's chin,
Streaming backward, was white. The gulls, blown inland,
Backward, or forward, were turned like scraps
Of paper thrown away. The want-bone split
And its marrow, the sea, ran out. Salt dried,
The entrails modeled a trout stream, screaming
Down the mountain, the heart its stone, its finger
The curled fiddlehead, its spine the reedy
Backbone of the bogland where Crusoe turned
His nimble, precarious pirouette,
A choreography of mud and tree-stumps.
The want-bone still trembles, far from the shore,
Shuddering with each wave yet always there,
A part of the earth, part of the ocean,
A part of the human body, reaching
Into the world's desire for permanence.

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