Two Poems—Brittney Corrigan

Riding the Ichthyosaur

After Mary Anning

The fish lizard rises through a cliff bed 
as her linen pouch of stone bones clatters: 
devil’s fingers, snake-stones, verteberries 
clack their fossil bodies, shift and slide.

Her brother finds the skull—pointed jaw
and conical teeth—but she summons
the rest of the beast. Basket of torso, flippered 
phalanges beneath the unsung fingers of a girl. 

All those invisible years, I picture her riding 
the sea dragon: one hand reining its skeletal 
spine, the other gripping her crude extraction
tool. Plesiosaurs surface through Jurassic waves,

Pterodactyls circle her on bony wings. She dodges 
lightning, drags Darwin along in her wake. 
In the churchyard, her ghost saddles up. Splinters
the stones to expose both monsters and men.

Peatland Aisling

They’ve taken the skeleton
Of the Great Irish Elk
Out of the peat, set it up
An astounding crate full of air.
—Seamus Heaney, “Bogland”

and I rose from the dark,
hacked bone, skull-ware,
frayed stitches, tufts,
small gleams on the bank.
—Seamus Heaney, “Bog Queen”

In the dream, Heaney’s bog queen comes leathered 
and fox-curled, saxifrage-ringed and riding the bones

of a giant deer. Within its prehistoric antlers, short-eared 
owls swivel tufted heads and stare. Hen harriers circle

blue-grey bodies against a greyer sky. Where the great beast 
steps, orchids bloom. Around the coffin bones of its feet, 

a flock of curlews whistles and darts. The bog queen opens 
a mummied fist, a dozen hares rushing from her fingers, 

sprinting into wintergreen and heath. Her voice long gone—
a ghost light in the buttery bog—I hear its changeling plead

in the otter-slick gloom. Ache and branching of my heart
into sphagnum moss as the bone deer stoops to graze. 

The peatlands sigh and syrup carbon from the air, absorb 
my breath. And the bog queen’s hands turn to pipewort, 

her sternum to a merlin’s breast, a collarbone of wings.
The bog keeps what it keeps and we take what we take.

From the bog queen’s darkened skull, a whooper swan.
Skeletal deer disassembling. Peat soaking me to the bone.

Brittney Corrigan is the author of the poetry collections DaughtersBreakingNavigation, and 40 WeeksSolastalgia, a collection of poems about climate change, extinction, and the Anthropocene Age, is forthcoming from JackLeg Press in 2022. Brittney was raised in Colorado and has lived in Portland, Oregon for the past three decades, where she is an alumna and employee of Reed College. She is currently at work on her first short story collection. For more information, visit

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