To further support Action Books’ growing community of writers and readers, we’ve decided to launch a new initiative on the Action Books Blog. Selected by our editorial staff, a recurring series called Action Fokus will highlight excerpts from 12+ radical manuscripts submitted by poets and translators during our 2022 Open Reading Period. Today we are featuring excerpts from Tim McCoy’s the bone room.

the bone room’s intensities go back to a single image that came to me not long after turning forty. I saw a wall-less room in the desert framed with bones—femurs, ulnas, and the like—and I realized that this image would become the node through which all my work would thenceforth be projected, as it contained the intensity I love in different kinds of art: Bergman and von Trier’s films, Wagner’s operas, Mahler’s symphonies, songs by The Cure and Metallica, novels like The Tunnel, and poems like those by Celan and Rilke, Pound and Plath, Eliot and Milton. I saw that the bone room was a response to aging, of course, but it was also a response to a narcissistic culture “performing” on social media and thus publicly infantilizing itself as a canny sell-out. For me and for readers, the bone room is the antithesis to all that. It aims to bring mortality closer to consciousness and examine its relation to desire (sex and death!), and it does so through a theme-and-variations structure where all my primary interests twine: Greco-Roman myth, shamanism and the sacred, woods, true crime, classical music, the troubadour/Dante/Petrarchan tradition, and renunciation. It seeks not clever irony, not faux “goth,” but sublime intensity, and it likely comes out of the same place as William H. Gass’s muse: “I write because I hate. A lot. Hard.”







[the bone room]



pier thrusting into sun
00000000000the god’s lit arrows continually nocked
000000000000000000000000000worshippers whirling        burning
000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000all grin
00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000all teeth
000000000000000000000000000dancing on an abyssal femur towards the invisible
000000000000000000000000000000000001111human instagrammtical verbs fully optative
00000000000the god invisible but seemingly felt
00000000000000000000000000000000as striation
00000000000000000000000000000000000000as the peeling away
0000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000of body
on the bone-pier
00000000000thrusting into brightness so concentrated it’s dark
0000000000000000000000humans never dancing dancing into the truly indicative they do
00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000and are
0000000000000000000000never fully embodying the bones they might be
0000000000000000000000never fully evincing the human contumely
000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000the dis-
000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000ease that might free

on the bone-pier
00000wholly indicative could obviate the wholly optative
0000000000000000000000000000000000000fully dancing skeletons
000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000fully here
00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000all grin
0000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000all teeth













prow-beads from mist
as the river laps laps
the sides
otherwise stillness without
rain without light’s

only scant being in the boat
only a failing
contingency a being-
fleck in
the boat

after death
no pyramid oculus
no stairs of blood of
no livid lamentation
in the throat-squeaks
of toucans

instead endless stillness like living’s
the river forever lapping boatwood
and shrouded bones
at the tiller














come in
come into this tent
the dead’s palms have smeared
with shadow
come in
to the animalinside
to your antecedent fang and fur

step right up come on in
these bodies will make feral
all adult denial
of your dream
to bound the meadow the wood
to lap moonshine out of a cataract’s eye

come in come in
the allegros of the dead flitting
here there
will make salivate
your need to rip
flesh off
the old but continual
making of

step right up
o latent thing
o worm
already at the threshold
of the infinite
and poring the humus
between can’t and













[the bone room]

on the creek-bank
00000000001rotting silver rotting weakfish
00000000000000000000000000000000cut by air’s suffocate razor its rusty gouge
00000000001stench’s keenness watering eyes blackening stomachs towards
000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000001vomit towards
silver rotting oxidizing in the sun
0000000000100000000001white fish ghost-fish
00000000001sickly moon-evocation        slender rot-storm
00000000001sickly slender symbol for honest purgation’s thunder its
0000000000100000000001000000000010000000000000000heaving desiccate grief

six blooming cuts six skeletal surfaces gaping
0000000000100000decay’s new windows new doors
000000000010000000000marrow-room thresholds on this creek-bank where
0000000000100000000000000000000100000000000000000you fished where
0000000000100000000000000000000100000000000000000you sought living’s silver its
000000000010000000000000000000010000000000000000000000000000flashing body

slow slow decay
00000000001as the bone room pales the morning the afternoon
00000slows dries the creek’s gurgle
0000000000100000000001solicits your own desiccate grief your own

on this new lunar bank
00000000001000000bones bathe in the moon















formerly if I remember
rightly entire foliage fell to
interior grass0001my lap a wintering
with red horizon and pus-yellow sunlight blinding
vision to
abjection0001a sudden consideration
of sepulchritude that is now the only

all summers’ green sparks
in some storm’s wet
glare0001earth kept honest
in its bowered lap of endless

any still un-withered i
now let as with leeches
into bone-paved













[the bone room]

out of ice’s quiet suspension
00000000001out of blizzard nights0001winter’s slow exacerbations
00000000000000000000000000out of the healing that slowly quietly occludes flayed skin
00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000001cools the writhing

0000000000000000(how close to final burial
00000000000000000000000000000000when the clot the scar marks
000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000the wound’s grave)
0000to the journey back to the hole the nailed puncture
00000000000000000000to the red upwellings from the pits after love
00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000cleanly in cleanly wrenched

let the wound become the sea our craft sails
000000000000000000000000000000000blood-scudding craft
00000000000curs licking the deck dry
000000000000000000000000000cleaning it again for the sacrifice that makes living
let the sailors sing again the bone-inscriptions
000000locate again our tristan our rawer love-scene our red hatched from bruise-yolks
0000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000ever-fresh ever-
0000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000present0001isolde isolde












[wasp romantique]

antennae twitching at communiques
from distant soda puddles’ caramel orange
at what prolongs burgeoning wasp-
wet with ardor and seeking
drown but

the shore of the exo-body endures
the waves’ assault
erodes only in
the core’s feeling-
at the beloved sweet’s distant tidal gaze
o petrarchan stinger o troubadour-
tension of gash-to-

inside which feline pus nuzzles the interior
edges of the new
purring with hurt as it purls
within a normative desert-cosmos of love-
thus furious to scab and 

but even so such wasp-love will buzz
with lamentation
will become
a bruckner adagio of all wasps like
seed down over a creek
floating into courtly myth
or the stillness of photogenesis for showing
in the eternity of
loud from interior air buzzed
with tidal gospel

as this wasp-madness mauves the stinger
and this wasp locomotives now with smokestack antennae
slowly consuming its own organ in the chug
of the self’s new cathedral
waves of tone for
divine buzz and fructifying
dream that

on this screen overlooking breeze-flayed grass
gasses sense into racket and
whirl like spring
bluebells bonging
that no mere other-side-scythe
no mower
will interrupt as
evening falls all a-
coke and with powdered rouge in the synthesis
the garbage pile’s foliage would have made
in its reek
in which the wasp might have earlier
sought its highest
sweet but

on this cupid’s porch
under human gaze envious of this paladin of
nascent in blaze like
red dawn
but then is this simple
porch itself
a dark which this new exo-lantern must now
must now













[the bone room]

grinding garbage shredders0001waste-slaughter

desert electronica closes distance
0000000000000000000000blonde hair black hair red bouncing swinging
000000000000dancers before duration’s marrow-philter is drunk
000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000before their rooms bleed
000000000000dancers in porous interwoven mating webs
00000000000000000000000synchronized innocence
0000000000000000000000000000000000language simplified to want love want
000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000rhythm seeming pure
00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000humans burning with burning

after duration
000000house-roofs become sinkholes
00000000000000000drywalled wood becomes garbage0001shambles
000000000000000000000000000000000000011the shredder the slaughter ascendant
00000000000000000000000skeletal lunar language enters domiciles
0000000000000000000000000000000000000000sharp white words evoke pasts
00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000ghosts obtrude
00000000000000000000000language shadowed with disaster
0000000000000000000000000000000000figuration-shades cloud purity
0000000000000000000000000000000000000000the seeming-pure mashed ground to sullied

after duration after time
000000distant balcony railings in a new orleans mind-locus festooned with death-crepe
0000000000000000000000language become spell
00000000000000000000000000000000000000dancers’ skulls obscure face-skin
00000000000000000000000000000000000000dancers’ sweat no longer balm against fate

grinding garbage shredders0001waste-slaughter


vaster distance








My lower-to-working-class background in central Illinois (near Peoria) informs my poems by what they leave out, namely nearly everything from that background, except for the landscape itself, which I still love. What first drew me to poetry was
Paradise Lost (those enjambments and shifting caesuras!), followed shortly thereafter by Hamlet, Prufrock, and “The Waste Land.” Consequently, as a poet I want art, the more decadent and intense the better. To develop these elements, I did work informally with Brigit Pegeen Kelly at the University of Illinois and then Michael Burkard at Syracuse University where I completed an MFA in 2006. I’ve had work published in Interim, The Collidescope, Ekphrasis, Stone Canoe, La Presa, and elsewhere. Alas, you can sometimes find me (mostly lurking) on Twitter at @MccoyTimwtheov.