Our Gleaming Bones Unrobed

Our Gleaming Bones Unrobed

by Grant Loveys

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A first collection of poems from the winner of the Cuffer Prize for short fiction

Our Gleaming Bones Unrobed is a haunting debut, a poetry collection thematically focused on discovering the structure (the figurative bones) beneath the appearance (or skin) of a situation.

This poetry is at once memento mori — a reminder and celebration of our mortality — and a lyrical exploration of the spirituality of the mundane, the possibility for revelation found in the commonplace.

The universe’s heart is a ruined house.
Written on the door is this:
you cannot do a thing that has not already been done.

– from “On the Occasion of a Book Burning”

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781770903142
Publisher: ECW Press
Publication date: 10/01/2012
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 68
File size: 477 KB

About the Author

Grant Loveys received a 2010 Newfoundland and Labrador Arts & Letters award for poetry and was the winner of the Telegram’s 2011 Cuffer Prize for short fiction. His work has appeared in numerous North American and European publications. He lives in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

Read an Excerpt

Our Gleaming Bones Unrobed

By Grant Loveys


Copyright © 2012 Grant Loveys
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-77090-314-2



    Time in your jail passed slow, like
    a lover's tongue turning
    in the mouth's soft cave.

    Seven digits for six escapes,
    two for the first so there'd be no second.
    I never wanted the parts of me you didn't touch.

    Let the mask slip, but never my thoughts.
    The guards put their rifles down, leapt from their towers.
    They'd never seen anything like me,
    deathbound, chomping for the chair,
    cursing a clutch of diamonds for a glimpse of the dirt.

    You tapped "awake, sleepwalker" on the wall of my cell.
    My heart thumped back a few lines in code:
    Release me, but incompletely.
    I'll give you my life, but my dreams are my own.

    The law demands we receive what we're owed.
    But what of the thing we desire?
    Here, let me confess my crimes.


    Miners speak of finding frogs in stones,
    emeralds bathed in mud
    occupying their own perfect negative space —
    nestled in as if grown there,
    as if one stray cell drove itself hysterical
    and erupted
    knitting together the most bizarre form
    it could imagine.

    This is what I'm thinking
    with your ruffed head on my chest
    smoking old cigarettes which pinch
    the soft flesh of my throat.

    Underneath your hair,
    that big vigorous bloom,
    and beneath the china plate of your skull
    is everything you've ever known
    or been or seen or done
    twisted into the folds of your brain
    waiting to be discovered,
    dribbled and dappled
    with the film of light
    sloshing down the hollow of your hips.

    I am suddenly certain of two things:
    The existence of secret frogs
    and that other thing
    I'm about to say.


    The robot chewed contentedly,
    hinged jaws clanking apples to mush.
    When the people had asked the master
    why it existed, the master had said
    because it can.
    They took that as a warning and
    seethed in their flesh.

    Master, what is love? the robot said.
    The master smiled softly.
    Love is weight, my son. Only weight.
    The pressure of pleasure. To love is a burden.

    It said, And what else is love?
    The master said, The apple accepts
    the pain of your teeth.
    It offers itself completely so
    you may be pleased.
    This is also love.

    The robot said, I see
    and went back to its fruit.
    Deep in its clockwork guts
    black blood had mingled with sugar.
    Grit settled like a low cold
    in the greased cups of its joints.

    The master closed his eyes and laid
    his hand on the robot's cold, slick head.
    Love was none of those things.

    Outside, beyond the door, they waited for a sign.
    Restless. Restless.


    Think Gaspé,
    a peninsula in Quebec.
    Think of the tides on a leash,
    led by the moon rushing
    along the ribs of that land.

    Think of lowering your
    open mouth
    into the gush, and of water
    beating a path down your throat.

    Only that water is breath,
    and it's not forcing its way in —
    something is forcing you
    to draw it.

    Think explosives,
    nuclear popcorn popping —
    big flaming cotton balls.
    Get yourself acquainted
    with the blessings of destruction.

    Think of a tiny man
    offering his tiny head on
    the pad of your thumb
    and squeezing it until ...
    Think of making that feeling
    with your lips.

    It's simple really. You'll probably
    never have to worry about it.

    But you wouldn't want
    to be unprepared.
    Life has a way of demanding
    answers to questions
    you didn't know it asked.


    Our lungs filled with
    the aerosols of poverty.
    Mopwater, rancidity,
    dust fluttering in filmy daylight.
    The crumbs of our misery
    welling in undersea plumes.
    We were flaking apart.

    Mom cut the powder
    during her lucid half-hour.
    Dad drained the barrel and
    tapped the dead bottom
    to spout one more rotten font.
    We yanked our misfortune's tail,
    peppered our beast with blows,
    skin too living-tough to fear fangs.

    The neighbourhood dragged its
    concrete over our knees, our soft spots.

    He'd say, Don't worry. There's
    a thousand little peckerheads
    lined up for Judgement Day,
    as we considered the
    perfect symmetry of seconds passing
    between our own judgement days.


    The first night it was
    of a forest of legs.
    Logdrivers hacking
    an exaggerated pirouette
    atop combat-booted lumber.
    The sternum thump
    of mortar fire
    as they thicken and clot
    a lazy river.

    Later, on hospital TV,
    a show about lizards,
    their tails sacrificed
    to a clinging enemy.
    Images of regeneration,
    new flesh sprouting
    in excruciatingly slow motion.

    One afternoon there's
    a magic show in the cafeteria.
    Never imagined it would
    hurt that bad
    to see a smiling lady
    sawed in two
    and made whole again.

    Pass time with the kids,
    try not to think about metaphors
    as they struggle with
    square blocks and round holes.

    Last night it was
    a doppelganger,
    soft and stupid as a newborn,
    wandering a sandy corner
    of the earth
    on broken, blackened legs.

    They said you get used to it.


    Ice choked in the harbour mouth
    like slabs of scar tissue
    grown thick over an old burn.

    Some nights the captain imagines
    himself as a virus run riot
    in the blood of the earth.
    Something vicious, undiscovered.
    A destroyer in miniature
    terrorizing the placidity of the body.

    Tonight the pilot of his own
    giant form shuffling along the sea floor.
    A monstrous sharktoothed head
    chewing its way through fields of glass.
    Weather balloon eyes brimmed with bottled moonlight,
    seagulls lazing in the beams.

    A losing bet, icebreaking,
    pyrrhic victory at best.
    More ice destroyed
    than God ever hoped to create.

    Oh to dance flatfooted
    in the ballroom of an ice palace,
    steps timed to the backbeat of shotgun cracks.
    Heart steaming behind an iron prow,
    course punched in for bathwarm water.


    History's black-eyed us all,
    so just pass the afternoon with popsicles
    and wait for time to take your Reagan away.

    Listen, it's not the metallic praise
    of an American hum through the radio,
    it's grain pouring from stuffed silos.
    We invented a formula for steel
    a few decades ago: progress by
    materials plus cash.
    So don't tell me how it's
    supposed to sound.

    By now Lincoln would've changed
    his name to Turner or Humphries and fled
    to France with a book full of good poems.

    And it's the Fourth so the rain licks its fingers
    to pinch out every firework it sees. The
    lawnpeople snap shut their lawnchairs
    and adjust their lawnmemories accordingly.


    Half drunk on moonlight
    like froth from a dish of freezing milk.
    Oil moving overland, these wolves.
    Coal, iron, plugged nickel made flesh.

    Noses up, drawn along a ribbon of scent,
    the air shimmering with it,
    blood dust peppered on leathered snouts.

    In a field of ice,
    the ewe huddles her hind leg close
    to the heat of her belly,
    bonesplinter steaming in the cold.

    Silhouette through the trees,
    barely there, just a flutter of movement
    at the eye's corner
    or an itch at the back of the brain.

    A fresh spurt of blood like gold thread on the snow.
    The biggest makes his move.
    The moon knuckles a skin of frost from its eye.


    White smoke rises over Graceland
    into a brass sky sewn with lightning
    the exact shade
    of the brain's hidden pulp.

    New Elvis mourns his dead hips,
    still useless after thirteen weeks
    of shimmy lessons.

    His domesticated lip shrugs
    a kittenish half grin.
    There's more curl in your toes.

    But with the dowsing rod
    in his throat he could find
    melody in a shopping list.

    Girls twirl,
    skirts up,
    holding off storms
    with the strength of their nudity.
    One of many favours.

    Who'd want fried sandwiches
    for breakfast
    and who'd want to
    die as an undignified duty
    in fifteen years?

    But, also, who wants to be loved?


    Found scrawled on a napkin, afterward:
    We'll not have another night like that again.

    She and him, her lacy skirt,
    his black suit and family —
    both ugly sides
    corralled in the VFW hall.
    Castles were seized with less force.

    A kiss to seal it, too hard, too long.
    Two fathers mime shaking hands
    on a drug deal.
    Two wardens on a last shift.
    This grand transfer, this cold caught.

    This was where the chairs squealed suddenly,
    where liquor turned to fuel in the gut —
    heat in the hall enough to turn anyone savage.
    Even the women; hanks of hair
    swept up with the streamers and rice.

    Bloodless. The exact feeling
    in the feet after a day-long drive
    away from here
    to a warm place where blood
    can fill you up again.
    Gently, at its own pace.


    Black birthday cakes of oil stand thick
    and still in catchpans, and the sore-throat fire
    ferrying the ship along dwindles
    to an ashy sniffle.

    A man drags a woman
    off the port side, honeymoon drunk,
    Olympic in their descent, two stars falling
    straight into the moon's eye.

    After dark in the engine room, the captain
    perches on an upturned lard bucket,
    his things laid before him: eighteen faded
    Parisian postcards, a big key labelled "GO,"

    a cracked shaving mirror in which a momentary
    lipsticked face appears and disappears,
    quick as a sneeze.

    It's so quiet the sea stops
    slapping the hull,
    hides its reddened face.

    All things on course.


Excerpted from Our Gleaming Bones Unrobed by Grant Loveys. Copyright © 2012 Grant Loveys. Excerpted by permission of ECW PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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