Adam’s Apple


At twenty months my nephew,
having already mastered the sound
of sense, held my attention
as I sliced an apple crosswise
to show him the stars.

After he’d strung three pieces
on his finger then tossed them
on the floor, he shrieked
and kicked and pointed
an insistent finger

elsewhere. Like the dunce
who searched for fire
with a lighted lantern, “Tell me,”
I pleaded, “tell me”
you little Neanderthal.



The skeleton found at Kebara
made me rethink Neanderthal.

Among the remains a hyoid—
shaped like a wishbone almost

the length of my thumb. Bone?
I press thumb and index finger

against my throat in search
of my own hyoid bone.

The 60,000 years between us contract:
He could speak. And I—

there was a time I couldn’t speak.
Some days, loving the lump in my throat

I think of the impulse to name
as Adam’s curse, our apple.



Not the ash, but the bones
are the reason we cremate;
picking through what remains

with chopsticks, we’re after
this one, in particular,
Arimoto insists, pointing

at his Adam’s apple—
we burn off the flesh,
he says, and fire the bones

just till they break
under their own weight—
nodobotoke, we call it

Buddha in the throat.


Copyright © by Debra Kang Dean