Through the sedimentary museum
all that still moves is dust and a woman
dusting drawer upon drawer of stony specimens.
To each impressed foot and petrified tooth
her gloved hand fits a theory
only to discount it, expounding a substitute
for why two bodies no longer join but rift.
A Paleozoic leaf recording its fall
in a carbon smear, butterfly wing pulled
from the Miocene, and already the New Life Era
exhibits stuffed quadrupeds, cabinets
standing firm on fanciful claws,
silk-stockinged bipedal scholars cataloguing faults.
Over their samples of bedding planes
she lays the dreamy methodical drift
of continents sundering, savage
in their extended courtesy, two centimeters a year.
Over this, over acid remarks recorded in passing
by a sea overriding a moutain’s breakers
fading from seventeenth-century notes,
model dinosaurs bare vicious little plastic yawns.
Debora Greger is the author of eight books of poetry, recently including Men, Women, and Ghosts (Penguin, 2008) and Western Art (Penguin, 2004). She has won awards including the Grolier Prize and the Discovery/The Nation Award, and has received grants from the Ingram Merrill Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Guggenheim Foundation. (updated 7/2010)