The Bones, Of Course – Poetry by Rob Carney

The Bones, Of Course

Joint First Place in the Letter Review Prize for Poetry

New Poetry by Rob Carney

May 29th, 2023


make interesting litter.
Cattle, mostly,

but sometimes coyotes too.
Go eight days without water, you’re a camel.

Do that as anything else,
and you’re a ghost,

a voice leaving on the wind
and rising away.

The stars shine brighter now
with midnight blackouts mandatory.

They switch off the grid to save water,
what little there is,

and too late
for this bighorn sheep,

for these ravens—
a bleached white pair.

A kid writes this letter to the future:

Dear Future,

          If I could, I would hand you this letter myself, but I don’t know where you’ll be when I get there. My mom says it wasn’t always like this, with everything drought. That means no more water.

          We still have bath tubs and sinks, but nothing comes out. The faucets are empty. And we still have glasses in the cupboard but mostly use canteens, and you only take sips is all.

          If you already know that, I hope not, not unless it’s in a book. I like to read books, even sad ones, but maybe you’re ok, and you don’t have asthma, and don’t have to hide on the dustcloud days.

          And maybe there’s a swimming pool that’s full so you can jump in.

And another writes this letter to the past:

Dear Before, when I wasn’t even born yet,

          How come you used up everything? I guess you weren’t trying to be mean, but it isn’t fair. I wish I could make a snowman instead of just be cold.

          We have a dog now because the man died who took care of her. She doesn’t even cry when she’s thirsty, she’s a good dog.

          When I point to the sky and say the clouds used to live there, she looks up too and wags her tail.

And a woman just handed me a postcard with this on the back:

          Snow on Timpanogos.
          So you know how it looked
          when I was growing up.

                               Love, Dad

And a girl sent this one to the governor:

Dear Sir,

          Were you actually serious when you told us we need to pray for rain? That isn’t a plan of action, or governing at all. I do not pray that I will graduate. I do the work, absurd as it is sometimes.

          Take, for example, three classes in Science when adults like you ignore scientists.

Or take Civics, for example: I am still too young to vote.

          But I won’t be next year.


They asked me to record these things,
to be the Listener and Reservoir and Scribe—

as if our letters,
and losses,

and stories
are scattered bones,

and maybe
I can fit them together.

So we still remember
in these drought times.

So we still imagine
in these drought times.

And so one day, if anyone finds this record,
we’ll seem whole,

like we were people.

Rob Carney is the author of the flash-essay collection Accidental Gardens (Stormbird Press 2021) and eight books of poems, most recently Call and Response (Black Lawrence Press 2021) and The Book of Sharks (Black Lawrence Press 2018), which won the 15 Bytes Book Award. He is a recipient of the Milton Kessler Memorial Prize in Poetry, the Robinson Jeffers/Tor House Foundation Award for Poetry, a featured contributor to, and his work has appeared in dozens of journals. He lives in Salt Lake City.

Original Artwork by Kita Das