Thursday, October 18, 2018

"Paleontology" by Terri Lynn Cummings

Terri Lynn Cummings
I wear my father’s hands
hold histories in them 
like drops of water
delicate, easy to lose

Like students hunting fossils
boulders bend their backs 
in the Arbuckle Mountains
wizened Precambrians 

over a billion years old
Below ancient seas 
brachiopods, bryozoans
graptolites and trilobites 

inhabit Oklahoma 
before mankind exists
   I stand and stretch
breathe summer’s green

crunch grit between teeth
wipe arm over brow
watch classmates collect shells 
and imprints of remnants

glance at my feet
Hair snaps awake
Chill chases spine
Eyes hone, again, again

Silence, white as a stone
erases the world
A trilobite, long as my hand— 
the find of a lifetime

Poet’s Notes:  Sight, smell, touch, taste, and sound probe this planet for answers about existence. Our senses translate history, rousing the buried, famous and forgotten. Imagine speaking a person’s name, unheard for the first time in centuries, or reading a poem written on papyrus; playing a children’s game carved on a boulder in ancient Ephesus; placing fingers over fingerprints imprinted inside a Grecian terracotta urn while drawing the urn’s earthen aroma into your lungs. Such power sparks time travel.

In the mid-1970’s, I majored in Anthropology at Oklahoma State University. Naturally, geology and paleontology dazzled my senses. The courses helped me understand the context and dating process of archaeological finds. I devoted as many weekends to archaeological digs as possible, including a summer in Caesarea, Israel. One long weekend, I accompanied sixty or more paleontology students and our professor to the Arbuckle Mountains where I “discovered” (almost stepped on) the trilobitethe largest trilobite recovered in the area until then. I donated it to the university museum.

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