that comes to pieces in your hand
like stale biscuit; birth book
how many million years
left out in the rain. Break back

the pages, the flaking pages,
to reveal our own hairline habitations,
the airless museum in which we’re
still chained into that still ocean,

while all this burly and stirring water —
motion in monotonous repetition —
washes with silt our Jurassic numbness,
shelves of ourselves to which we will not return.

Bedded in shale, in its negative evidence,
this Venus shell is small — as maybe she was.
The fan-shaped tracery of vertical ridges
could be fine-spread, radiant hair,

or proof of what we take to be
her temper: hot sluttishness loosened
by accident into cold mudslide,
preserving a hated symmetry, a hated elegance.

There is so little sheltered, kept, little
and frail, broken in excavation, half
buried, half broken, poor real child in the boulder
that finds the right shape of its mind

only at the moment of disintegration.
And yet, — this clear cuneiform in rock,
this seas urchin humping its flower under
‘low flying phantoms’ — this flowering anemone.