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Anne Whitney


Primal Views

Taking the x-ray in its manila envelope to the specialist,
and there is my daughter, skeletally speaking,
in black and white.
Though in this new light she's taken on an unfamiliar cast—
turned "homo sapiens"—whose bony skull, rooted ivory chunks,
and empty glaring sockets have gone down in history.
Her teeth, wire strung, look twice as long as those I see
when she laughs or eats.
That snaky backbone, the reason for this ontologic view,
indeed exceeds the bounds of ideal posture passed down to me.
Not the typical American teen in lipstick and blue jeans.
Instead a filmy, two-dimensioned creature hung up against the light.
Out of time—in touch with ancients,
with baby bones uncovered in caves,
with hollow victims' heads piled high,
with cannibal prizes and other pre-historic signs of alien life.
Too grim and thin.
These so-called bones just photographs of sticks.
And that's no sleepy head I've cradled in the night.
Such big bare jaws and teeth could torture me.
The spine, a dinosaur's spiky back no human girl would show.
No common pose, no ordinary sight, tacked up before us.
An imaginary hallowed figure never meant for mortal mothers.

How could I possibly identify these bones?
(If ever the time should come.) For their whiteness?
Their lightness or length?
And how pick out this skull among the billions?
Even those with wired teeth? (There must be millions!)
Nor is this chain of vertebrae particularly unique.
Though if I learned to read this print
it might supply the missing link.
Without the knotted yellow hair, her grandma's Swedish eyes,
her left arm's furry mole located on the same coordinates
as a similar mole of mine, who would she be? (Who I?)
But then again,
her connections have never been quite so apparent:
She is a living member of her genus and her species,
whose mother is the last to notice.
She is an evolutionary bridge to cross into the future,
imprinted with the very cells that make her singular,
sent ahead to carry the remnants—
hair, eyes, and mole—that I adore.
The vision of another world I was not created to endure.


Anne Whitney is a native Nebraskan who teaches writing and literature at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her work has been published in Earth's Daughters, Forum, The Mower's Tree, and Platte Valley Review, among other publications.
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