in the fossil record. Millennia of sea anemones
lost, their ghost lineages as branched
as their tender, unkeepable bodies.
We remember bone, tooth, shell,
chitinous exoskeleton. The hard parts.
Whatever’s stiff enough to displace mud.
A spine’s archipelago. I bend over
in this Utah heat, feeling the earth’s vendetta
against flesh, which it punishes
and punishes then decomposes.
I unstrap my tools, trowel or brush,
to use as the rock dictates.
I had imagined grief to be the trilobite,
many-segmented and ubiquitous.
Extinction’s logo. They are shrines
from the tough earth to its fierce loves
more mineral than animal.
Where is the tilde of an earthworm
that tilled the soil with its entire innards?
A squid’s roving, buoyant eyeball?
The earth will save my hunched skeleton
but not the tapeworm that squirms inside me
of its own volition: delicate ribbon
as long and tangled as hunger. Or joy.
Mitchell Jacobs lives in Vientiane and teaches English at the National University of Laos. His work appears in journals such as Gulf Coast, Indiana Review, Missouri Review, New Ohio Review, and Ninth Letter.
Cover image: Photo by Wolfgang Hasselmann