Remains of fossil nautiloids exposed along the Buffalo National River (National Park Service)


Everything can be replaced—
the trilobite kissed into the fragile shale,
the cup I hold high and see
lamplight around my fingertips,
even the kestrel
circling high over the creek.

But the replacement is never satisfactory—
a quail for a heron, a thunderstorm
for a mountain, a child on a tricycle
for some equivalent innocence,
but not the same, not even close.

The fractured fossil is swept,
and an ashtray takes its place, or a plate
of apricots pecked with
slapdash scars by the jays.
The fallen oak is replaced by a view
of sailboats, and the small craft themselves
are taken by a squall that

is broken by dawn.
That’s why this poem will be
unfinished.  The deer steal down
to eat the new landscaping
and no one sees them.
         They leave the bare stems
of the ivy, and return to the eucalyptus,
trees as slender and tawny
as the secretive young
who by this midsummer
must be gone.  Grown,
I mean.  Still here.

Michael Cadnum has published nearly forty books. His new collection of poems, The Promised Rain, is in private circulation. He lives in Albany, California.

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Published in the June 14, 2019 issue: View Contents
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