The Bones Upstairs

by William Doreski

In the little room upstairs

in the rear of the Methodist Church

you find human bones scattered

as if animals had feasted.

No one believes anymore

that dancing on Sundays is a sin.


No one recites the Apostles’ Creed

without crossing fingers and toes.

But I attended Sunday school

in that same room sixty years ago

and I assure you no human bones

lay scattered on the dusty carpet.


You want an anthropologist,

not the police. You want to bag

and tag the bones and send them

to the local history museum

where pottery and arrowheads

embody the world before our birth.


The gray light in that room taints

the corners of the intellect

where the chalk of bones has inscribed

maxims from Kant and Plato.

The painted pine furniture

reeks of the deaths of children


who crossed streets without looking

or dropped radios in the bathtub

or dove too deeply in the river

at the S-bend in the gorge.

You didn’t know those children,

but I could name them by touching


the bones and feeling them twitch.

Leave them. Don’t call anyone.

Let them regroup on their own,

and tonight they’ll clack down the stairs

and rustle into the snowy woods

to settle without a fuss.


William Doreski lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire, and teaches at Keene State College. His most recent book of poetry is The Suburbs of Atlantis (2013). He has published three critical studies, including Robert Lowell’s Shifting Colors.  His essays, poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared in many journals, including Massachusetts Review, Atlanta Review, Notre Dame Review, The Alembic, New England Quarterly, Worcester Review, Harvard Review, Modern Philology, Antioch Review, and Natural Bridge


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