I never learned to read skeletons the way my mother did: follow the line of three stars with your eyes, she said, keep moving up, and up, until you find it, the shoulder bone, and from here you can point the arrow. See? I was five, maybe six. She lifted my arm and pointed my hand toward the sky. I wanted to see. I squinted. Closed one eye at a time. Asked her to show me again. Again. But I could not see it. That night, my mother stood on my twin bed and stuck glowing paper stars to the ceiling, careful to recreate the pattern so I would remember: a bright line, five stars to make the flexed curve of a bow.
Or: if I tattoo this skeleton into my skin, will it change the way I see the sky.
Or: this constellation will never survive my brutal body.
Heather Bartlett holds an MFA in poetry from Hunter College. She is the author of the chapbook Bleeding Yellow Light (From Yes Press, 2009). Her recent poems can be found in Barrow Street, Carolina Quarterly, Nimrod, Ninth Letter, PoemMemoirStory, and other journals. A lecturer in English at the State University of New York at Cortland, she lives, writes, and grades papers in Ithaca, NY.