Looking For Fossils in the Sulphur River by Randall Compton


photo by J.S. MacLean

Looking for Fossils in the Sulphur River

                         Hoarded now in a tea tin on my writing desk, 
                         relics rattle when shaken, surviving memory’s
                         blank weather, fragments carelessly denoting 
                         unbroken story lines scarcely extant in mind.

                         I crawled for hours in channels of deep time,
                         my sixth-grade mind focused on finger-sieving 
                         the piebald gravel screening chunks of monster
                         Mesosaurs, sharks, and stony, wrinkled worms.

                         Their moment had passed, bones and teeth turned 
                         to stone, gnashed and buried by water and time,
                         reappearing like textbook’s faulty memory
                         of an ancient king’s abdicated scepter and crown.

                         Still protruding from its piece of flinty gum,
                         a shark’s tooth rests in my palm; just longer
                         than the first two joints on my index finger,
                         it narrows to a point that could still wound.

                         by Randall Compton

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