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.



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.