Elk Teeth Visions


Elk bones tell us
you don’t have to clean
every bone you find.

Some of what’s learned
from collecting bones
gets lifted up in prayer.

Use rubber gloves
if there’s soft tissue.
Left in open air
to rot’s the best,
along with burial.

Bad things to do
include boiling or bleaching.

On dry bones
my friend likes
some steel wool.

Soaking in warm water
with biological washing powder
is ok for skeletons
with soft tissue. Take care
to rinse well, or enzymes
will eat the bone.

You don’t have to preserve
every bone, every breath
emptied of self. Dry bones
emptied of function,
coming into their own.
Not voices, but ears,
pure and unobserved.

Jim Bodeen
14 March 2016


--for Marty

Driving Highway 12-West
to the Mountain, skis on board,
deadwood above the ditch
catches my eye—something
for the bonsai trees?
And then, bleached skeleton
of an animal, just beyond fence line,
Oak Ridge Wildlife Refuge.
Those bones might have
something to say to trees.
My landscape includes
the jeweler who fashions
for me, another vision,
winter counts helping me
to keep on breathing,
taking multiple forms—
sometimes lapel pins
with elk teeth, antlers
set in silver and bronze,
maps carved
will only be seen
by the dreamers.

Jim Bodeen
7-8 March 2016


Photos of the teeth
even with the skull
mislead my friend
until we return
for a second look.

Extraction shows
how fragile
they are,
shattering like clay
before the pliers.

Easy, easy.
Wrap the tooth
in soft cotton
using a smaller
knife, wondering

what will never
be known.
A memorial garden
of any other kind

could not contain
all that gets remembered here—
these teeth—
sentries will see to that—
Philosopher songs.

Jim Bodeen
8 March 2016

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