Robert Pinsky’s “The Want Bone”

When Robert Pinsky speaks with Pearl London as a guest in one of her seminars, London asks him about the "want bone"--the word, the object, and the poem. Pinsky obliges by talking through the symbolism of the object; the ossified, frozen-open "O" of the shark's jaws as an embodiment of desire. The discussion ends with Pinsky reading the poem aloud.

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THE WANT BONE

The tongue of the waves tolled in the earth's bell.
Blue rippled and soaked in the fire of blue.
The dried mouthbones of a shark in the hot swale
Gaped on nothing but sand on either side.

The bone tasted of nothing and smelled of nothing,
A scalded toothless harp, uncrushed, unstrung.
The joined arcs made the shape of birth and craving
And the welded-open shape kept mouthing O.

Ossified cords held the corners together
In groined spirals pleated like a summer dress.
But where was the limber grin, the gash of pleasure?
Infinitesimal mouths bore it away,

The beach scrubbed and etched and pickled it clean.
But O I love you it sings, my little my country
My food my parent my child I want you my own
my flower my fin my life my lightness my O.