Near Dorset’s western coast, its beaches
brittle with ammonite husks and the tip, tap, tip
of hammers and fossil picks, near white cliffs
and a black river, up through meadows and down
through nineteen layers of quarried limestone,
the idea for a code begins.
From the quarrymen’s bed names,
from the pressures of war or entombment or song,
an untraceable shape steps, layer
by limestone layer, straight from Pig’s Dirt
to Lower Verity, the span of those first strata
just what encryption requires: one sow, one position,
and the clickety-clack of truth and dirt.
Then it climbs, the code, past
Lower Skulls, Under Copper, Upper Skulls,
and just beneath Mongrel, Specketty.
Specketty. Nothing but sound, saw-toothed,
off-throwing. That is the key, isn’t it?
Follow the bed names, the patternless patterns:
fact, sound, position, illusion. Tip. Tap.
Top Copper, Top Tape, Third Quick, Rattle.
Then turn from the clicking, climb back
through form, Grey Ledge, three Fish Beds—soft,
off-throwing—and just at the last,
on either side of Upper Verity:
Glass Bottle and the unnamed Doggers.
That is the path, isn’t it? That secrecy takes?
Begin with a beast in its sty.
End with an unnamed sense of pursuit
and a fixed, unbreakable shape,
age-stained just a step beyond clarity.

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