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Carry My Bones 

by Sam Ambler

December 2022

Carry my bones to the hills,
where I can rest my eyes
on the island of Santa Catalina.
Carry my bones to the topmost peak
of what was once a seafloor bed.
Carry my bones back
to the burnt-ochre deserts
of the inland empire.
Carry my bones home.
I’ve been away, a lifetime gone.
Push together a pyre of oak and scrub
fueled by dung and peat.
Build it in the gorge
where, in the middle of the day,
the horned owl screeches,
where rattlers twist
and chase off king snakes.

Kindle the spark of the bonfire
with verdigris lichen.
Sprinkle its mischievous flames
with white berries of winter mistletoe.
Listen to it crackle (such glee
in its hoary voice, such abandon)
as it sings my name
and chars my bones.
Let the ground mist of dawn
cool the sparkling embers.
Grind them into dust
as fine as talcum.
Daub them on your face
and rub your cheeks.

There is more power
in the sand of my bones
than in all the tiger balm in China.

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