I was a visionary child—dogwood flowers laced my woods,
and friendly white-tailed deer carved the paths I followed
between colonnades of oaks. It was an age of expeditions,
and I often unearthed gritty fossils until the half-moon
tips of my nails became black with dirt. Then, I would return
home, bearing handfuls of ancient columnal crinoid segments
preserved in the brittle gray stone I found on the dusty shelves
of bluffs by the lake. These were my grand discoveries
from Paleozoic-age rocks, and I decided I would become
a regular Charles Darwin. The world was open, and I was free!
I would travel deep within the Amazon and climb
Everest without losing my breath. I did not imagine
what I imagine now as I hold the scratched wooden box
of earth’s remains open upon my lap and run my finger across
the cool, ribbed joints of some quiet, petrified creature.