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Tuesday, January 15, 2019


by Dustin Michael

The devastating tsunamis that struck the coastlines of Chile, Haiti, Indonesia, and Japan in recent decades produced waves tens of meters high, unimaginable to most people accustomed to gentle seas. But millions of years ago, a truly inconceivable set of waves—the tallest roughly 1,500 meters high—rammed through the Gulf of Mexico and spread throughout the ancient ocean, producing wave heights of several meters in distant waters, new simulations show. (Photo credit: Science Photo Library/Alamy Stock Photo) —EOS, December 20, 2018

If there had been an Eiffel Tower,
an Empire State Building, a Great Pyramid,
One World Trade Center, a Statue of Liberty,
our house, our cars, and all the plates and dishes
from our wedding registry, our books, our children,
our children’s new dinosaur toys and my old dinosaur toys,
if there had been these things all stacked one on top of the other
like a mighty finger, they would point up to space, and to the terrible foam
of a still-much-taller wave.

If there had been human words to fail,
a rich tapestry of languages, a monomyth,
creation stories from every culture, all involving fire
and water, the name Enkidu in Sanskrit on a shard of pottery,
a diagram of the heroic cycle labeled fig. 2 in a student’s essay
about the earth-diver, the bones of Joseph Campbell
tumbling over and over in a tsunami that scrapes clean
all the bone beds, petroglyphs, an animated film on VHS about 
non-contemporaneous dinosaur friends on a dangerous journey,
drawer after drawer full of carefully labeled fossils all scattered,
all hit with the hose

If there had been a firebox containing the important papers,
passports, proof of citizenship, baptism certificates, bonds,
our homeowner’s insurance policy locating us in a flood zone,
topographical charts predicting sea level rise that the current administration
commissioned and then dismissed, the food and gas receipts from hurricane evacuations never submitted for a claim, fluttering away into a darkening sky like a thousand tiny lab coats

If there were a way to imagine a bullet from space
striking a planet of enormous birds, or to invent an instrument 
to measure emotions from plaster footprints made from casts of stone,
if there were a way to carbon date an animal’s scream and filter it
through a mile-high wave crossing the globe at close to the speed of sound,
or to photograph the world dying from our bedroom, I would reclaim these secrets from the quivering Earth for you and fall asleep with dirt from the backyard grave of our parakeet under my nails, tracing my finger along the crater
in your pillow where your face has pressed,
and discover a new layer of sediment there
composed entirely of thoughts
and prayers

Dustin Michael teaches writing and literature. He lives with his wife and children in Savannah, Georgia.