It could be almost anywhere
in the Middle East.
The result of war or famine
or withholding of medical care.
But always he is there
on the nightly news,
that young boy in the frame.
His collar bones rise prominent
from a dirty singlet,
the beaks of two canaries
pushing upwards, anxious
at the barrier of skin,
as though the suffering came
not from beyond himself
from a poisonous mine within.
The clavicle is the only horizontal
long bone in the body.
When the shoulder is abducted
it rotates along its axis.
Hence the Latin clavicula…little key.
But think one step beyond anatomy
and there is melody.
Clavis strikes a chorda to become
its own instrument: clavichord.
Clef too is from clavis
the object, to divide and enchain sounds
within a measured space.
A pied piper word, then.
But there’s no clever twists of meaning
to lead myself away from him.
That young boy, wearing the little
horizontal skeleton key
that lies just above his first rib
and opens no doors.
The two beaks of his collar bones
powerless to resist
rising up to meet
the day’s cruel music.
Judy Johnson has been writing poetry for over twenty years. She has published six full length collections and several chapbooks. She has won the Victorian Premier’s award and been shortlisted in the West Australian and NSW Premier’s Awards. Her verse novel Jack was on the syllabus of both Sydney and Melbourne University. Her latest poetry book Dark Convict’s concerns the life and times of her two African American First Fleet ancestors.