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“the x-ray was an accidental discovery …” Courtesy of Michael Dorausch/flickr.

[Excerpt from The Grief Contest.]


Bone shade: the hip and pelvis
against dusk,

my arthritic spine, the blurring
lines between skeletal structures,

the invisible ray passes
through my soft tissue

the x-ray was an accidental discovery
the first film, a woman’s left hand,

her wedding ring, thick proof
of wedlock (to the scientist)
next, a kidney stone, then

a penny stuck in a child’s throat;
we seek what does not belong

in the body, the murky blot—
a surety to mark our inexplicable pain

if I read the gospel
according to Luke,

I’d know that ghosts don’t have
flesh and bones

nor should I meet with
mediums or necromancers

for answers to the future or
answers to the past—

the dead are probably unreliable narrators

a fractured hip is often catastrophic
for the elderly, surprisingly,

more so for men than women,
memories, too, fracture, disassemble
under the weight of a long life,

as one day, my father’s bones will turn
to grit and ash in the crematorium

Lorene Delany-Ullman teaches composition at UC Irvine and is the author of Camouflage for the Neighborhood.
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