It’s hard to say how skeletons arose.
The first intention, perhaps, the first
certainty migrating to the surface of the skin,
the decision to move to the city, a brick layer.

Shells may have been wastes disposed
on the outside of the body, slow corals
that grew as the uselessness of inside
made its way to use, to irony.

For what advantage? To be able to push back?
The first bones were the first yearning for rock,
already there were the impossible nostalgias,
the mineral homesickness, the heavy heart.

There is a small bump on your collar bone.
I imagine it now to have been the start
of a new decision, the slow radial wish of ribs
beyond me.

Questions and Answers

About “Palaeozoic”

The poem “Palaeozoic” is from my book Kingdom, Phylum which deals with the vexed relationship we have with order and systems of meaning (on the one hand we rely on categories to make sense of the world, but on the other hand the things we attempt to order are never reducible to the categories we try to put them in). This poem in particular deals with temporal orders and the way geological time and evolutionary history are often “made sense of” through narrative. The poem juxtaposes evolutionary narratives with the difficulty of making sense of domestic narratives. What stories do we make up about our origins? How do these inflect the stories we see ourselves living in the contemporary world?

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