Everything is a Fossil
I work over the last of the fossils
We gathered this afternoon,
Digging in ravines near the spillway.
Lit only by a small lamp,
The table is covered with tools of the collector:
Brushes, knives, labels, the solution of white glue
Diluted with water
Used to preserve broken fossils
Or to bring out
The delicate quality of the dendrites,
Or the finger-like
Network of veins of angiosperms.
Each specimen is placed, no matter how small,
Into its own carefully marked box or bag,
Or in the small green filing cabinet
In the corner of the room.
My eyes blur.
As I bend over the last find,
The desk becomes its own landscape,
Strewn with boulders, and shells
Of dead life forms begin to move
Across the dark rocks.
My hand is no longer my own,
So still and rigid,
As if it were the hand of someone else,
Or had turned to stone.
Cricket songs wake me up,
So I turn on the light,
Searching at the rug’s edge,
Behind the desk,
Until I find it among the rocks,
Resting on a shale piece,
Silent, nearly invisible.
It had crawled there
To get out of the cold.
Its legs barely move when I tap it
With my fingertips, the hard casing
Of its body nearly as firm as stone.
It does not crawl away, hides
Under the shadows of the desk,
So I turn out the light,
And hear nothing the rest of the night.
I find it in the morning,
Legs drawn up, stiff,
And so attached to stone
They break when I lift its fragile form,
Carry it downstairs,
Drop it into the mulch
Around the flowers.
Its body will never survive,
Nor its imprint, nor ours,
But atoms will strike out,
Spinning in ever widening circles,
And be drawn up into other bodies,
Through flowers, the dark stems,
Mental Notes of a Kansas Hermit
Walk through bramble and get stung by a wasp to see
One blue wildflower burning in a red meadow.
Fly a kite constructed of reeds and newsprint,
Or weighted by stones, build a fortress for ants.
Tear down the snow fence, but save the posts.
Walk through time, but always return before dusk.
Eat a hatful of berries with two wild onions
And wash your breath with a tin cup of rain.
Deny the existence of prairie phantoms
When they snuff out kindling or watch you sleep.
Owe allegiance to things you can touch,
Dirt and wood, to replace God, country, wind.
Send a fifth bottle down the swollen creek
With a note inside that reads “Be my friend.”
---From Ghost Town Almanac
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