16. Birtwhistle, Eloise. (2020) Blue are the ribs [Text]
Blue Are the Ribs
Four Splinters of Vivianite
Ötztal Alps, 3300 B.C.
Winter draws sheep into the hollow
where his body lies. They shelter, leave
droppings, depart with the season. Eventually
the glacier swaddles him. Held in
his stomach: grains of wheat
strips of ibex meat. Minerals leach
from the ice, blossom into vivid pustules
in his lungs, on his tattooed skin.
Jing’an County, 500 B.C.
Forty-seven nanmu trunks, split
and hollowed into women’s coffins.
From single blocks ladles are carved, lacquered
and placed into the tomb. Hairpins, jade
sets, a bamboo fan woven into the shape
of a cleaver. One brain shrinks like the closing
of a fist. The women’s bones
exhale crystals into the clay.
A southwest wind drifts white-blue into
lions’ gilded mouths and the muzzles of open
gun ports dip to drink. When the lower deck fills
a crowd of hundreds watches.
In the wreck, fish rid thirty skeletons
of soft tissue. Jawbones
wash against cannonballs, grow blue
as if coins had been placed onto their tongues.
South Vietnam, 1963
A Phantom F4 unravels from sky
into the soft bed of a stream, lays
shards of flesh and cockpit. Jet fuel
winds bright along the water. Jungle resettles
the years. The pilots are returned with the wrinkles
of their footprints intact. Hawaii’s Central Identification
Lab interrogates if the remains were warehoused, suspects
some religious act rendered them imperial blue.