An old Spitalfields boneyard,
where each step,
hiccups across soft November ground.
Later, when you have dug a little deeper,
you learn to take more care.
For this was rush hour
for these crammed together, commuting dead,
and the plosive popping, their egg-shell skulls.
I ask you to steal me one.
You tell me that it’s illegal,
to own a human body part,
a skeleton, a single bone,
unless the nature of your job demands it,
I tell you that poets are committed
to questions of mortality,
and that we require constant reminders
of our temporary flesh.
A skull would be just the thing.
You are not convinced,
talk of a fellow archaeologist,
who took one home with him,
as others might take Sellotape and pens.
I think of it travelling on the tube,
stuffed deep in his rucksack,
grinning a limestone rictus in the darkness,
as it bumps against his lunch box;
of it enjoying central heating in Wembley.
You shatter this illusion when you say,
that unable to bear the guilt
he returned it soon after,
and left it on a heap of shattered femurs.
He wasn’t a poet, then.
© James Morgan Nash [Coma Songs, Grassroots Press, September 2003, 2006]