The Geologist’s Box

Helping the geologist pack up his rocks
for the movers, the poet delves
through stratum on substratum of old news.

The legal notices mutter toothlessly to themselves.
The classifieds tremble full of secrets
desperate to be told. In the opinion pages, so many
lonely immortals lie petrified—

This rock is the crystal of a million years.
All the time we were pushing
erect, it was sculpting this shape from within.

The front-page headlines are the most pathetic:
tragedies wrung dry in the twist
of a pun, melodrama in clownface while inside
a shadowy crowd starves and grieves—

This rock holds the signature of some
ancestral skeleton. We have
evolved our own mute signs to survivors.

Each day before dawn the loaded trucks
distribute their stacks of print:
the newstands, the coin-vendors, the slung
sacks of paperboys on bikes—

This rock was the knee of a dinosaur.
Like all things lifted and
abandoned, it’s a piece of the Earth now.

And under the landfills in vaults of decay
the advertisements feed bacteria,
rat-litters nest in the obituaries while tree-pulp
that was history turns back to tree-pulp—

This rock shows the strokes of the first
vertebrate to puzzle it out. How
make a tool without tools? How to start?

And the ink escapes its columns at last, grinning
photos weep across their captions,
percolating through ancient plastic to taint
the subterranean seeping of time—

The packed box is almost too heavy for one
geologist to lift. He marks it
FRAGILE in black ink, and we go back inside
for another beer.