Don't Exist: A Sestina to a Fossil
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Don't Exist: A Sestina to a Fossil

In the painlessness haze of opium
Mary lay in bed staring at a lithograph on
the floor. A plesiosaur skeleton. Once hers. Now nailed to the wall
of a museum. The cold crept through her blanket
slithering through the closed windows. And Amon
was there among the forgotten curios.

He stood there a curiosity among curiosities
The knickknacks collected dust. Maybe it was just the opium.
Lovingly scanning the empty shells and skulls Amon
said “This is a lovely find.” She kept on
as she was, still curled under the blanket,
infantile. “There’s nothing there,” she said, “Just the creaking of the wall.

Just the creaking of the wall and the wail
of March's winds,” The museum empty of its prizes. The curator
remained; she clutched the blanket
as her life ebbed out, soothed by the tincture of opium’s
quiet numbness. She remembered the plesiosaur found on
the sea shore among the ammonites.

She looked at the man again. He grew curled ram’s horns. Amon
knelt down beside her. “All of your life you chipped at a wall,
poor woman, never stopping.” What is he on
about? She thought in the haze. My life’s work has been a curiosity
for the gentry and gossipers. They used me. The tincture of opium
sat on the table, reflecting the dunes of blanket.

“Don’t think like that. The animals that blanketed
the old Earth with their remains will be remembered,” Amon
said, “The diggers remembered in myth,” Her heart slowed its oscillations,
calming her tumor-nestled chest. The dead sat on the wall
staring down at their captor who would join them before cure
or treatment. "Don’t taunt a dying woman, you’re having me on."

He turned away. The horns on
his head disrupted the dust blanketing
the shelves. Hundreds of unsold crusts
and coprolites sat clean. Seeking amnesty
for grave robbing she sighed. Her eyes walled
shut. Where is that opium?

Ammonites are cured on the bottoms of shallow seas and become Amon.
A woman sells seashells on the seashore and runs into a wall.
The neighbors come, remark on the opium and wrap her in final blankets


"She sells seashells by the seashore.
The shells she sells are surely seashells.
So if she sells shells on the seashore,
I'm sure she sells seashore shells."

People in nursery rhymes don't exist. Did they ever?

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