Breakbone Fever

Thomas Lux

On the femur a brick drops hard, from the top rib
to bottom a steel
bar slams, on neck bones and skull, on clavicle, the fever
drops its stones, on the knuckles,
the wrist bone; the carpals, both regular and meta-, they get
cellar doors slammed on them. Oh the capitate, hamate,
lunate and pisiform bones take a bad
beating: ballpeens bang
and jackhammers
jack against each one. Even some joints—interphalangeal
agony!—ligaments, get this fever, go down
with it; even fingernails, nerveless themselves, battered by it,
and hair, hair enters the skull like a hot needle. Watch
out, ossicular chain—hammer, anvil,
stirrup, bones smaller than grains of rice
in the ear’s pea-sized cave,
full grown since birth, first to turn 
to ash, watch out—the pain there
will tell you what owns the heat,
who aligns the tenses—past, present, future, and none,
will show you owns the fish hook fricative verbs,
who assigns the persons, places, and things,
what islands the ocean, what affords the tree its rings,
who owns, in fact, your bones.