Poet's Choice

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By Robert Pinsky
Sunday, January 27, 2008

Metaphors, symbols and myths are not arcane distortions, peculiar to poetry. They are part of thought and speech, sometimes buried like the fact that focus is Latin for a hearth, and sometimes as explicit as the names for hardware: an elbow, or a male-to-female connector. Katrina Roberts considers the ripples of significance surrounding the names for tiny bones in the ear:

MALLEUS, INCUS, STAPES

Six months in utero

my boy's bones begin in middle ear

to harden so sound can conduct:

hammer, anvil, stirrup --

the three smallest of bones though names conjure

bulk and heft (metaphors

make miracles visible)

-- thought's farriers; a word's trickle or timpanic

blow means bones to strike,

taut membranes struck

and that which gently cups beneath to let


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