A Lesson in Deep Time

for Birch Malotky


I stand atop history and geology,
Mineral Mountain, El Dorado.
This continent continues its slow
tilt towards the sun
on the axis of season.
Beneath the melting snow
the Earth is alive with the damp smell
of vernal growth germinating.
Thrush and Warbler sing of their return.
The retreating snow reveals
scat and tracks of Ungulates,
life leaving its impression
in its perpetual migration
following sun and season.
I stand at the edge of a bare outcrop,
rocks atop one another
in perfect balance.
I close my eyes.
The world is alive in sound and silence.
The sun is warm on my lips.

The rocks beneath my feet give way,
life out of balance.
I fall forward slowly,
there is no Earth to hold me.
I fall into the valley until
I am caught by dirt and rock
far below. The impact is not subtle
yet, I do not stop.
I continue to pass through
the membrane of sand and soil.
My ears bleed gravity.
I am no longer me.

I am Mammoth footprints
in the White Sands of time,
not fossilized, but fresh impressions
appearing and disappearing
for the first time in thousands of years;
simple Paleolithic patterns,
daydreams of human mind.

The sediment of cells erodes
beyond Cenozoic.
I am crust and dust compressed and fossilized,
an Igneous intrusive
dreaming of magma mother.
Nightmare of extinctions propels acceleration
through Mesozoic sandstone
into Paleozoic apocalypse.
Permian-Triassic extinction:
life nearly ends.
Cambrian explosion:
life begins.
Metamorphic metamorphosis,
loss of memory.
Long descent through Precambrian geology,
the history of Earth alone onto itself.

Mind becomes molten.
Parts split apart,
an annihilation of being,
non-existence at the core of self.
Bright abyss, consume and shape me
into solid centrifugal inner sphere;
Coriolis force erupting magnetic field and gravity.

I move away from the center of mass.
Inner core, outer core, mesosphere mantle, asthenosphere, lithosphere.
I fall through fissures,
an Igneous extrusive
erupting at the bottom of the sea.
I am an island
with a hot tempered tongue.
I vomit flame and ash.
The sky breathes me
and I block out the sun.

My eyes fly open.
I catch my breath in ragged gasps
atop the bare outcrop.
A dark cloud has passed before the sun.
It is going to snow.
The birds have flown away.
All is silent, waiting.
The dry smell of Winter
still clings to my clothes.
I follow my footprints home,
the impression of me already eroding.
I look back in time
to see the rock fall.
Its violent journey rings in my ears
until its final silence
punctuates the last sentence
on the last page in the book of life
written in stone.

John Haworth is a word-enthusiastic bibliophile in charge of cramming books in their proper places between writing poetry and scooping ice cream. He lives in Nederland.

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