november 8, 2023
Despite unearthing North America’s most complete fossil record
of Clarendonian vertebrates
—horse, camel, sabertooth cat,
paleontologists here have extracted
but two articulated skeletons:
a pair of frogs,
enable the skull to move up and down but not side to side.
As my son sifts through the loose stone and holds up one shard
looks like a bone to me
after another I pull from my backpack
a coyote gourd on which I have etched
you are the only one to see this
and set it on a slab the wind
and rain have yet to smooth into streambed.
all two-hundred and some odd pounds perched on my ankle’s talus,
which in a frog is called the astragalus,
as in the local Astragalus
lentiginosus, spotted locoweed, whose nitrogen-fixing soil bacteria
spin air into soil.
Astonish, from the Latin ex (out) + tonare (to thunder).
In 1997 monsoonal moisture materialized in a flash flood
that dissolved the canyon ranger complex : an arterial sluice
of white noise, what could pass for a round of applause.
No trick : it’s a routine :
The individual is capable of seeing much more
than the human hand
can set down.
Matthew Woodman is the 2022 Kern County Poet Laureate and the founding editor of the journal Rabid Oak. He is the author of "This Is Not Your Moon" and the contributing editor of a series of anthologies, most recently 2022's "Writing Covid." His work has appeared in Juked, Puerto del Sol, Sonora Review, and Hawai'i Review.