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Friday, September 23, 2022


by Dustin Michael

It's not often you find a bright side to drought, but in Texas, the heat and lack of rain have uncovered dinosaur tracks from 113 million years. The tracks were unveiled at Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose, Texas — about an hour's drive from Fort Worth. The park is known for its dinosaur tracks, but these newer ones are usually covered with water from the Paluxy River and aren't visible. NPR, August 25, 2022

In the photograph you perch atop your tall chair,
a Mesozoic predator with a smaller dinosaur–in this case
a plastic stegosaurus mailed to you by your Uncle Richie.
Your skin pallid, papery like a new fossil exposed to air,
your lifeless smile a museum skeleton, you were four years old, 
my son, and it was just spring, and no one knew you
had leukemia or how close to death you were. 

The floods arrived, tests and tears, swift currents 
sweeping you across town to the children’s hospital 
clutching your favorite things. I discovered you each day 
washed up on the bank of your hospital bed, wires and tubes 
twisted around your withered limbs like prehistoric vines.
For our home, you became a mysteriously vanished creature, 
a question sleeping at the end of a trail of footprints,
and I became a scientist logging your every trace,
following your ancient tracks, cataloging your fragments 
while your nurses and doctors reconstructed you. 

Now, each time I think I have you adequately described 
and slouch toward the podium of my heart to proclaim,
“I hereby present my findings so the world will know
this child, my little boy, who roamed this very Earth—”
more evidence appears, the sediment of my hours 
is scoured away to reveal more mundane marks 
made sacred by distance, disaster, the old economics 
of despair: your preschool mat on the floor like a shed skin, 
your crayon drawing of our family, crumpled, a primordial leaf, 
your t-shirt sleeve peeking like an ancient tooth 
from the laundry pile, and the wondrous sets of trackways 
I found one afternoon when I collapsed face-down on the floor 
near where you and your puppy used to play, 
the tiny footprints tell where you both scurried in 
from a sudden storm, faint mud on laminate flooring, 
puppy and boy, a cataclysm of joy frozen in time. 

Spring was a hundred million years ago and in every second since
I have lived a life of hope and mourning. These new tracks emerged 
from behind my tears like your toys when I would drain the bath. 
Where do they lead? Perhaps to the children’s hospital 
and your den of blankets and tubes, or to the counter 
and the photo of your dying child’s smile,
or into an uncertain future where I 
cannot see you, surely because
you are only bounding ahead. 

Dustin Michael lives with his family in Georgia, where he teaches English writing and literature. He and his wife share blogging duties at, where they write about their son, Phin, who was recently diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia.