Saturday, January 23, 2016

Jack Scott writes

One Black Swan (pt 5)

Then . . . as I got up, leaning on the cliff for balance
something stung or bit me in the palm of my right hand.
There was no critter there.
Fossils are not sharp;
all the ones I’ve seen are rounded and relatively soft.
I saw what did it, inconspicuously embedded in the wall
with blood now on it – mine -
enough to ball up my handkerchief for and clench it in my fist.
I doubt if I’d have noticed it otherwise.        

Sticking out at shoulder height                                 
the shape of a shark’s tooth,                         
except . . . this was not a shark’s tooth.
I had no doubt; I’d seen hundreds of them today,
but only one of this.                               
About halfway exposed, its sharp point protruding,
irregularly serrated, it looked to be hand-chipped or carved,
I think the word is "knapped."      
I knew what it looked like
and also knew what it couldn’t be.    

It was stuck hard in the stratum where it lay;
it would not wiggle free.          
Arthur and Excalibur came to mind, anthropomorphically.
It was content to stay right where it was;               
I was not content to leave it be.
With a hard sharp shell I began to scrape and scratch around it -
easier said than done.
Slow progress. I didn’t want to slice myself again.
Finally . . . at last . . . some movement -                  
very slight at first, gradually increasing,
until a wiggle, then a twist and in between more digging.
until the rock relented, loosened its firm grip,
gave it slowly up to me, let me have it.
Some sand clung to it;          
I rubbed off a little with a shell.

Hard won . . . but a victory, albeit a mixed one.
I sat down again to have a long hard look at it.
This was hard stone . . . very.
My guess was flint, sharp enough to shave with.
This was artifact, not fossil.                  
This was an arrowhead.
This was impossibility.
If this were on the beach it would be explainable;        
this had been Indian country,
but there is no way an Indian could have shot or buried 
this arrow into this Cliffside at this depth.
(Why would he? Why would it point outward?)
This surface was not yet exposed when Indians were present.
There were no Indians in this chapter of Creation.

The tide of this befuddlement was swiftly coming in;
the cost of this discovery: its penalty was readily apparent.    
It was obvious and certain that no one would believe me.
I am a curious person and all that comes with that.
Now that this paradox had dropped into my lap
I couldn’t let it be or easily be free of it.
Already this was more than arrowhead;
it was Idea.

Covering my emotion lay intellect, its skin.
I was unprepared for hidden warning signs.
What words could state the peril I now faced?
Is there language adequate to caution
that the threat was not through injury -
that was not my hazard -
but by obsession with true mystery.
I’m having so much hindsight now;
why did I have so little foresight then?
There would be a lot of homework    
best done in solitude;
otherwise if publically, in half-truths or outright lying.
I am educated broadly, but a shotgun not a sniper
and since this perplexity involved specialties not mine
I’d need the expertise of others.
Ruefully reflecting on all the classes I’d half slept through,
or been barely listening to,
enough of it sunk in for me to know
I was facing more than mere oddity.   
I dreaded all the hard work that lay ahead of me:     
a lot of books and questions in search of answers.

There’d be fieldwork - returning here -
I would enjoy that.     
I’d like to find a second one -
validate it with photographs and witnesses.
As this one was, there must be another.
If I have this one why not two . . . or more,
there’s got to be another shoe somewhere near this floor.
In this moment’s headiness
may I be allowed a grandiosity:
might the archer be found as well?    
No time like the present for exploration to begin.
I had a closer look around my excavation.
Broadening my search, I found nothing obvious,
so did not prolong it;
there were other things to do.
I’d have to trust my mental map;
I had no camera, no pen or paper to plot it graphically.
I had to mark this spot inconspicuously,
so I could find it later, but not lead others to it.
This discovery was mine.
While I was in the throes of its being new to me
I’d best do nothing until I’d thought it through.
I must pay close attention to features of this site.     

First I focused on the top, the edge above me
where forest overhung the vertical                              
(some trees were slowly toppling, soon to fall).
Was there a special tree or a unique outcropping?                             
Yes, I found what I needed; it had been lightning struck.
Now to memorize and reinforce that memory by repetition.
Next, a marker down below.             
There was a lot of insubstantial litter,
which, with the winds and storms and tides,
easily comes and as easily goes.
Driftwood thickets here and there, also flimsy, portable.
I was in for some hard and sweaty work.
I dragged three heavy logs, the remains of trees       
whose limbs and branches had been worn from them
by time and other elements; half their weight was water.
I laid them side by side, at right angles to the base   
as close as I could place them -        
exactly thirty paces to the north of X, the spot.
Forty paces to the south
I rolled and dragged and cursed
three squarish boulders into place.

I looked at it from near the water line
for maximum perspective.
I had to memorize my tree;
I had to memorize my dig so I would recognize it.               .

The next important job requiring full attention
was to study the seam, a layer of the cake,
where this point had been bedded.
Although not ruling out the other seams,
this lode was the one that gave me what I had,
the likelihood that here there may be more   
making it most promising.
Something else to memorize, not my best faculty.
I’d need to track that seam as far as I could follow it
before it dove into the ground back near the museum,
as I remembered it.
I stalked it as closely as I could until I wasn’t quite so sure.  
One last thing before I left:
the height of the arrow’s nest came to just below my shoulders.
I took a final look above to verify my marker tree,     
trying again to be a camera.  
Although I meant to be back soon
things have a way of changing.

I passed by the piles I had collected without picking up a thing;
I had all that I could carry:
one single thing.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Join the conversation! What is your reaction to the post?