Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Fossils Never Run Away, But

No one asks fossils if they want to be collected.
In fact, it seems they do not. They hold fast to the rock
as if clutching the rock, pulling away from hammers
and picks and cleaning brushes. Fossils seem to cry out,
their stolid silence itself begging, “Sanctuary!”
But sanctuary is never granted. Hammers fall,
picks bite into surrounding rock. Fossils are chipped out,
wrenched from the ground where they’d passed
    thousands, millions of years.

No one asks fossils if they want to be collected.
They’re itemized. Counted. Catalogued. Studied. Displayed.
They become parts of our world. They were parts of the world.
No passionate young men and women will set them free,
return them to what people call the natural world,
restore them, wild stone, fragments of the wild, to the wild.
The wild is still there, the uncollected collection.
Are we looters? Does the wild want back what we’ve taken?

It’s safe in museums. There isn’t much erosion
turning something living turned into stone into dust.
There’s something like immortality in museums.
The museum-state. And no change-of-state forever.
The museum is the wild as the wild never is.
Arrested. Stopped. Defined. Ordered. Arranged. Unchanging.
When no one’s looking fossils never run away, but
no one asks fossils if they want to be collected.

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