This week’s poem takes us into the realm of fossils, the subsoil, and the various afterlife of organisms on our planet. I love the careful distillation of this poem, the subtle music of its fossils, stones, and spores, and how its final turn opens up the whole poem even wider.
WJ Herbert’s debut collection of poetry, “Dear Specimen”, was chosen by Kwame Dawes as the winner of the 2020 National Poetry Series. Selected by Natasha Trethewey for inclusion in Best American Poetry 2017, her work also appears, or is forthcoming , in The Atlantic, Hudson Review, Pleiades, Southwest Review and elsewhere. She lives in Kingston, New York and Portland.
By WJ Herbert
The mollusk by fossilizing,
seashell set in sandstone around the edge
from an old sink,
caldera, minaret, limestone
marking time from birth in a coral bed,
each one its longevity but wanted its own
open pine box on earth.
We had no plan
and suddenly it was sealed where
no insects can leave debris, no mold
his shroud could be embroidered
by leaf spores and larvae, time
loosen his bones
for them to open, the umbrella gives way
to the elements, creak and sigh of displacement.
Seismologists say great,
if it hits away here, won’t
lots of damages. Twist rebar.
Tear open crypts.
Megan Grumbling is a poet and writer living in Portland. Deep Water: Maine Poems is produced in conjunction with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. “Outage Map” copyright © 2018 by WJ Herbert. Reprinted from Greensboro Review, Vol. 104, Fall 2018 (titled: “Geologist”) with permission from WJ Herbert.