Of poisoned bones


I know a little boy back in France who spends each afternoon reading strange stories of bones, of bodies, of lives that some think have been left behind, some believe have dissolved forever into an uncertain sky, sometimes flickering unnoticeably into an invisible air. It was one afternoon that under the deep underwoods of olive tree, he found a centuries old bone buried, a femur, that belonged to who must once have been a beautiful woman and it seemed almost shining, like the most exquisite, the most ancient of all riddles. He took it to all the old people he could find, who had lived since perhaps forever, but no one could see anything, recognize any spot of any face they ever could remember. It signified to them nothing more than what it was, a fragile shard of calcium. But a hazel-eyed woman from the corner had whispered secretly into the boy’s ear that once, as a child, she had read in an unknown Latin that there exists on earth a light that may reveal all, even about ruins.

It was years later, walking in the cemetery close to my father’s house, that I’d found a piece of femur bone that had strayed far away from all graves. It was coated in wet dust, I was slightly hesitant to pick it up but it stayed there and after a few minutes, I just had to touch it with my fingers. I turned it many times, in different angles, hoping that maybe the warm sunlight will tell me something about it, maybe the moment of epiphany will arrive. It never did, as it never does, and so I threw it away casually further than where it was found. Had it been under the never-found light, it might have been seen that its white clarity, in places, reflected metallic yellows and that it belonged to the broken thigh of an aging queen who, in her desperation to keep her young lover around, had killed herself with aurum. Night after night, she drank a bitter elixir of gold chloride and diethyl ether as her body failed a little more each day, remembering the vision from her childhood where every summer was spent without idyll, eating ripe mulberries found at the bottom of neglected trees. She believed it preserved her beauty.

The woman who died of gold poisoning for her love, in a few hundred years, becomes an anonymous piece of bone. Sometimes, not even that. The bone your dog chews at the edge of your garden could be of a man you once loved, in another life.

The little boy knew already everything he was ever to know. In my dream, he is 6 years old and sometimes he tells me that in the decay is the extraordinary.

This was first published in the Seagull Books Catalogue 2017-18. 

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