A Spectrum Analysis

by Jessie Carty

 after the documentary “Nostalgia for the Light”

The woman palms objects small and white, explains
the coral-like ones are from inside bones:
porous spaces for the processing
of calcium. The flatter, sharper
segments are shards
from longer bones.
She’s learned

a new vocabulary
while searching for what
remains of her family: dead
from a dictator’s decision, skeletons
purposefully scattered to prevent reunion.
The desert’s open spaces and lack of humidity
tend toward the large scale: work camps, telescopes,

and burial. The widow, the archeologist,
and the astronomer are all looking
backwards for traces
of calcium. The fifth
most abundant
element in the

crust, the fifth
most dissolved element
in seawater, the element
that makes bones radio-opaque,
the element given off by exploding stars.
Without a trained eye the remnants of calcium
are difficult to decipher from the rocks, from the whorled

edges of galaxies you cannot name until someone gives you
an encyclopedia that maps the right coordinates,
correct pronunciations, definitions,
the origin stories of the spectral
line that displays
of light.


Jessie Carty is the author of six poetry collections which include the chapbook An Amateur Marriage (Finishing Line, 2012), which was a finalist for the 2011 Robert Watson Prize and her newest collection, MORPH which was published by Sibling Rivalry Press in the fall of 2013. Jessie is a freelance writer, teacher, and editor. She can be found around the web, especially at jessiecarty.wordpress.com


Filed under Poetry

6 responses to “A Spectrum Analysis

  1. jessiecarty

    Thrilled to be a part of Hawaii Pacific 🙂 Aloha to anyone who wants to chat about my poems with me.

  2. Pingback: News and Plans! | Jessie Carty

  3. Jessie, did you have to do research for this beyond what you gathered from the documentary? I really liked how this poem just gained momentum as it went along. And the shape . . . cool!

    • jessiecarty

      Thanks, Debbie! I did do additional research. I was intrigued when the documentary mentioned how calcium was a constitute of stars so I started by googling calcium, and I just kept going down the rabbit hole from there 🙂

  4. Jessie, I really like your line breaks! Such great structure! My favorite part was the image of skeletons being scattered to prevent reunion – brilliant! I look forward to reading more of your work.
    Best of luck,

    • jessiecarty

      My comment didn’t post! Thank you for your comment 🙂 The image of the scattered skeleton was a haunting one in the documentary and the linebreaks finally took shape after much revision. Always revision.

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