[Time to haul this one out of the archives, what with all the targazing I’ve done the last couple days.]
“What is it that sets us apart,” she asked,
“from sunset or sierra?
What is the line between ourselves
and the terrain from which we come?”
He thought he knew, but something in her eyes
transfixed him in a way he knew too well.
Deep and dark and wet they stuck him fast.
In parts of California, long ago,
impressive monsters ambled in the hills:
placid armored sloths two people tall,
cats with teeth as long as boning knives,
dogs the size of bears. Now and again,
a glint of water tempted them, or else
a furry piece of meat held strangely still,
and only after the imprudent pounce
would the tar entomb them.
Now, the graduate students pick their bones.
When the land thus asserts your membership
in the vast assemblage of dust and bark,
of feather, fur and rock in which we live,
it’s best not to struggle overmuch.
The land is patient, yet insistent.
Fighting off the tar will muss your hair.
Paleontologists an era hence
will find your clothes awry. Embarrassing!
Far better just to let oneself be swallowed
in all-consuming pitch, placidly slurped
into the balm of Quaternary ages.
That’s what her eyes felt like, he thought;
a sudden lack of individual
identity: nothing sets us apart
one from the other, nor from the land around.