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matthew woodman

november 8, 2023


Despite unearthing North America’s most complete fossil record 

of Clarendonian vertebrates

                                                              —horse, camel, sabertooth cat,

bone-crushing dog—

                                                              paleontologists here have extracted
but two articulated skeletons:

                                                               a pair of frogs,
                                                                                              whose atlases

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.

                                                                                               I straighten,
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.

now you see it, now you don't

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.

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