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Breastbone Ode by Judith H. Montgomery

published in Cumberland River Review, Issue 7-1, January 2018


Breastbone Ode

by Judith H. Montgomery


Think gladiolus: not the loud flower flaunting its frilled petals: bee-worthy, beguiling. Not


the armful of flagrant blaze, but that interior sword-lily, our hardy armor, pale bone shield


buttressed by clavicle and rib, our tender heart’s defense—manubrium, gladiolus, xiphoid process


Greek and Latin names for handle, body, sword- tip. O valiant breastbone, anchor for our ribs’


bony branches as they lace up the pierced cage that guards us against injury, buffers our so-


vulnerable organ against accident (steering-wheel’s wild lunge, oak branch’s blunt spear, some stop


sign hurled from hurricane or heaven). Let us honor the body’s gladiator, our sturdy buckler


as we cocky ever-adolescents whim and wing from rock to ripple, daring disaster. Praise each


our humble breast-bone, sternum, gladiolus, whatever name we give it—our best defense,


our bulwark, our necessary intercessor.





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