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Charadrius montanus

—–—-There has always been something strikingly columbine to me in
—–—-the outward appearance of a plover’s head—a similitude that is
—–—-by no means shaken when we come to examine the prepared skull….

—–———————————-—R.W. Schufeldt
—–———————————-Observations upon the Osteology of Podasocys Montanus (1883)


For I’ve parsed an archipelago of bones, plunged
to dredge the wreckage of a dove, unfeathered, up
from its acid sleep in the maceration jar.
Isle of femur. Of scapular curl. Isle of skull.
Landforms on a walnut table—and Huxley king
there, brooding over disarticulated ribs,
a scepter’s heft, heel to the sagittal suture
piecing this world with the next. Borne from death’s demesne,
I ferry morsels of creation’s map: far more
of gore and gristle than I’d dreamt in the ghostbird,
seeming, as he does, aslink in his rangeland grass, ————–—Bouteloua gracilis
to traffic in afterlives—each step to glib step
a fluid vanishment. For all that wickering,
withal he’s no pigeon from the book of Tobit;
for I’ve seen, pierced to the white of his inner life,
yet never heard the call, and needn’t. Huxley’s God
skulks about those islets scattered through the study,
or else above. We’ve bone enough
—–—————————————to raise a ladder.


Thomas Henry Huxley, to whom the modern taxonomist owes an abiding debt of gratitude, was known among his contemporaries as “Darwin’s bulldog,” an epithet derived of his vociferous advocacy for the then nascent theory of evolution—namely, his historic participation in a public debate with English bishop Samuel Wilberforce in 1860.

As a result of its quick, fluent movements and its cryptic, grass-brown coloration, the mountain plover is known colloquially as the “prairie ghost.”



Nathan Manley is a poet, translator, and contracts attorney. He is the author of two chapbooks, Numina Loci (Mighty Rogue) and Ecology of the Afterlife (Split Rock). Recent poems and translations appear in Tahoma Literary Review, Natural Bridge, Portland Review, and The Classical Outlook.



Photo by Eric Prouzet on Unsplash

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