FOSSILS

by J. T. Barbarese


When he was young he used to spend the whole summer


in the abandoned slag heaps around the old mines


outside the city of Scranton. It would take him hours


to pick through the shale stacks, the sweat writing lines


in the dust on his face, and the old ball peen hammer


slung from his belt pinching his belly button.


Some days there was nothing to read but the signatures


of ice and erosion and tools. Then he'd find one,


a slate unnaturally filigreed with the fright masks


of a trilobite, ferns, the inferior commissures


of ancient clams. He would wrap them in moist newspaper


and carry them carefully home. Once his teacher asked


him to talk to the class about fossils.


Satan plants them to trick us,


he said. When I get home I smash them to pieces.



J. T. Barbarese teaches English at Rutgers University. He is the author of (1989) and of a translation of Euripides's (1999).


All material copyright © 2000 . All rights reserved.


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