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Summer 2010

Trilobites

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Before you understood the risk of breaking
things apart, you sat beside your father
in the old stone quarry, mimicking the deft
slipping of his chisel between thin layers of shale;
before you had the threat of time holding
you, the arms of your child holding you, the voice
on the phone, Hold on—there was the quarry, the stones,
the heft of them in your cupped hands, the grace

of chisel, hammer, pick. You learned patience,
opening rock after rock, finding clusters
of brachiopods, fragments of thorax, or nothing
but smooth gray shale—and sometimes a trilobite
intact, spiny, armored, its halves fat
as big toes. For this he set his chisel down,
cradled the find, licked dust from its two faces.
He dug through outcrops, gravel pits, creek beds,

searching for that familiar face, as your own
hardened. They warp his shelves with their prehistoric
weight. What does he seek in them? You see nothing
in the charcoal blotches they left behind—
nothing but that old stone quarry, the dust,
the mirroring—no human quality save
the way, if you squint, they resemble mouths—the round
darkness, the black O waiting to shape speech.

—Elizabeth Hazen



Elizabeth Hazen's poems have appeared in Bellevue Literary Review, Fourteen Hills, Nimrod, Smartish Place, and elsewhere. She lives in Baltimore.
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