The task you’ve given me, granddaughter,
is to follow with the knapsack
and hand you hammer, chisel, wire brush.
No billboard on the highway said
This Way to Fossil World, no one
sold us tickets to the ocean floor.
We’ve found our own quarry, long
abandoned, limestone the county
cut into blocks for trestles
or crushed for road beds.
Sometimes the chisel, wrongly-angled,
bounces off and makes ashen stars,
but you’re closing in on your display
for the fifth-grade science fair.
Here on our own shale banks
and sedimentary rills we play
a game you love called
What Does This Remind Me Of?
I’d say these tracks
crossing the fragment in my palm
are lines Madame Marie the Palmist
could read for us. You counter by freeing
a plate-size matrix done up
with thumbnail starfish—a witch’s
Frisbee, and we go on to
a stem like a stack of bottle caps,
a shell that could be an elf’s hat.
Tonight your handbook’s illustrations,
its binomials and eras,
may tell us we’ve been taken in
by one or two of the crystalline
branchings known as dendrites
or the friction markings called slickensides—
nature’s wooden nickels. But for now
we bend to a place where stones
may be anything but stone
and you load me down with what lifts me.