Saturday, January 23, 2016

Jack Scott writes

One Black Swan (pt 3)

I sat upon a driftwood log
and while in this ambiance
a state of meditation settled over me,
like fog seeping from a dream.
I’d found something that I didn’t know I’d lost:
a need to visit places where my mind can’t go,
through the presence of things so old, 
so far away in time that they might be from distant stars,
then come to realize they are from here before,
even before before,
woven with a phantom sense of here where I now was.
This in the midst of bright, clear day.

I’d found a need to touch pieces of this past
with my fingers, embrace them with my hands,
wrap my mind around them,
try to realize how far away they are from me.
I longed to bridge that void 
between their time and space and mine,
knowing it was not possible even in my mind.
Let them embed themselves within me
without a sense of me intruding; 
let them fill me, fourth wall be damned, 
allowing them to flow into me,  
not blocking passage through any channel 
or narrowing possibility.
Being human I tend to minimize
how distant they really are from me
stretching my imagination like the frail balloon it is,
knowing it will reach its limit before I’ve half reached mine,
popping before the awesomeness is neared on any scale.
I’d been touched or brushed by contact
with something I’ve never given thought to,
something attempting portraiture in the gallery of my mind:
as before, so very now.
One step was all I’d need in that progression,
a beginning,
then perhaps the next might follow,
and so on toward some kind of end.
I strain now to walk in that direction 
toward a dream about another dream,
both contained within a grander one
forgotten by all former dreamers.

This stonescape these imprints now adorn 
was once an animate kaleidoscope, 
a garden alive with tiny flowers of siliceous algae,
which, in dying, rained a steady dandruff sediment,   
endlessly shed snowlike, falling into snowflaked drifts,
the lees of ancient seas, amounting to a matrix
much like an anchored glacier, a diatomaceous cement, 
which, when mixed with the gravel fragments of larger skeletons
and compressed by its own weight,
became hard and dense enough,
became – voila - a concrete also known as rock.
The animals that created, lived within the shells,
did they die or were they killed?
Did something eat them, make them sick?
Or did their life spans just collapse?

In paleontology, you expect to dig down for what you seek.
Not here.
What here was over is elsewhere under,
what here was under is up above your head a hundred feet or so.
I was standing in and on the sediment of ocean,
it’s floor, the bottom, the Abyss
where sharks and whales lived and died,
royal links in an extinct food chain.
What I held, selected, collected in my hand, 
is what the muck could not digest, nor the sea dissolve:
teeth, some bones and shells,
sometimes a fossil imprint from one of nature’s presses
challenging me to try to read. 

How strange, I thought and yes, how almost creepy.
All this, enough to overflow my eye and overpower my mind, 
the bank and its still buried treasures, 
the rich sea bottom plains of this sloping beach, 
became something like a spell.
My eyes were open, alert to all around me.
The beach still looked and smelled like beach.
There was no hard evidence that real magic had been done,
yet I felt surrounded by absent company.

Perhaps it came from what I’d handled
lingering as something I’d absorbed - a deathless energy.
I’d piled up lots of fossils on this long and narrow graveyard. 
What can one absorb by touching things? 
Can one catch death from things long dead?
Although I didn’t understand, I felt less fear than wonder.
Touch. Touch these things as you uncover them
these remnants, this book you open page by page,
to find it’s in some kind of Braille 
revealing just how blind you are 
until you learn more humbly how to read them,
gathered round your campfires wanting better light, 
settling for what you can get.
You may touch, catalogue and shelve them,
name them for yourselves in Latin,
but cannot claim them, however you may become engaged.

Time . . .
The old man told me this is Miocene time:
fifteen million years ago, give or take ten million.
Can I believe it?
But I am trying to. 

Life along the beach was plentiful and varied;
birds I didn’t know the names of,
squirrels scampering in the upper trees,
in the water an occasional turtle head
submerged once you stared at it.
Occasionally a fishback glinted, sometimes baring more,
probably striped bass.
A school of Bluefish stampeded smaller fish toward shore.
In landlocked tidal pools were minnows,
minuscule shrimp and even smaller life.
Deer had left their cloven hoof prints in the beach,
this safer highway off the road. 
Rabbits also showed their absence
by their footprints and their presents.
Ospreys had raised families in a skeleton tree.

I was in a place of life;
I was in a place of death 
with no contradiction. 
We’re fond of glorifying earth as a living thing -
No argument with the fact, only with cliché as sanctimony.
It’s so full of life, so blue and green,
but scratch its surface,
dig . . .dig . . . disinter, excavate, discover.
Beneath it all a global graveyard,
a planet based as much on death.   
This earth is cemetery, a vast necropolis,
this beach and cliff, an ossuary.
We are pygmies riding on a giant’s shoulders
walking on a lot of bones.

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