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J. P. Dancing Bear

          (Poem Starting with a Line by Mary Jo Bang)

The body buried in time. A fickle list of numbers.

Tick, tick, tocking, no telling the tell-tale heart

to stop. All corpses are wrapped in guilt,

placed in their coffins, their boats, their linens

and set to earth or blaze or washed down the river

to join silt. I

                  owned a morbid desire


in a shroud of years, to leave the bodies

of instinctual love, where

Fibonacci and primes go to die like elephants

in their graveyards. That tusk of my father

jutting out of the ground—a fat sapling of dis-

appointment; my brother as wingless as the tortured

fly; sister sinking into the sunken-eye ground, grand

mother lost in a ravine of leaves, tangled in brambles.

I am the one who leaves

                             on the ship


with sunset and its reflection. The red skirt

in the night and at dawn. Delight and be gone.

Someone once wiser than I said if you get a second

chance to live, hit the gas, get moving, rip the rearview

mirror off and toss it out—don't turn around, just get

out of town.

                   It's good to know the longitude

and latitude of where bodies lie, but better not to be near

enough to point. Forget the number of footsteps, better

yet get bigger shoes. Lose a finger if it keeps you from

the proper count. The best thing about distance

is immeasurable, is timeless, the great getaway,

the unsolved mystery left for archeology students

to ponder the bones.

                           They were never so simple

                                                                  as to be just bones.

J. P. Dancing Bear

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