This summer I took part in “Art on the Trails: Unexpected Gestures” at the Beals Preserve in Southborough, MA. Poets were invited to respond to one or more sculptures installed along the trail that meanders through the preserve’s woods, meadows, and pond. My poem “Epoch” was one of two to receive an honorable mention. When I first glimpsed Robert Shanahan’s powerful sculpture “Entelodant” in the woods, adrenalin surged through my body along with the impulse to run from what looked like a giant, very lifelike warthog (on closer examination, artfully made from reeds and brush)! (Entelodant went extinct 65 million years ago.)
The earth collects on all its debts
Beast, with your bronzed fur of reeds and twigs,
your stone teeth, your hooves, stone-cloven,
the stripe of sumac threaded through
your flank. Whorl of your woven ear.
The snarl of you, moving through
the gape of your snout. Bristling
comma of tail where the spider has knit its web.
Entelodont, you are the dark other who makes
the small mammal in me shudder.
You, swept through the Oligocene’s long wake,
peering back, late and strange. We, too,
wear ourselves thin.
When we are as you have become,
who will know us, who will call us
by the hard-washed light of our name?