Abigail, not long ago, a scientist
touched the carcass of a baby mammoth.
It had been preserved thirty-thousand years
in Siberian ice. Perspective vanished.
“I laid my hands on its skin and felt a chill.
I had touched the Stone Age—had, like Robert
Lowell, breathed history through the lucent gills
beneath my fingerprints.” My daughter,
your hands grasp with more purpose each day.
By night, you tear at your eyes while sight’s skin drifts.
What terrors could you dream at five weeks to claw,
like Oedipus wrecked, for freedom’s eclipse?
Our games have grown to prayers, I’ll confess. Pleas:
“Soft elephant is soft. Soft elephant
is soft.” Let this be all the knowledge you need
for now. Whatever else its skein may represent,
never mind. At this Purim’s vernal thaw
flightless, camphor-billed crows roost on our lawn.
Don’t reach for them, for history’s iron lungs,
its viruses cresting, crowned above Shushan.
J.L. Wall’s writing has appeared in Atlanta Review, First Things, Contrary, Breaking Ground, and Kenyon Review Online. He teaches college writing at the University of Michigan.
Photo by Sabrina Heinke.