Friday, January 08, 2010

Residues

A few stanzas from The Poem by Galway Kinnell:
On this hill crossed
by the last birds, a sprinkling
of soil covers up the rocks
with green, as
the face
drifts on a skull scratched with glaciers.

The poem too
is a palimpsest, streaked
with erasures, smelling
of departure and burnt stone.
The hill, an outcrop of rock scratched by glaciers. Then covered over with a thin layer of soil and growing green. And then the birds, crisscrossing, crosshatching. Layer upon layer. The hill as a palimpsest, a parchment, written on, erased, written on, erased, written on again. Stories upon stories upon stories.

Literary scholars try to reconstruct from the subtle clues of palimpsests the former documents, traces, perhaps, of ink, shadows revealed by special light or chemical analysis. So too does science try to reconstruct former worlds of drifted continents, vanished flora and fauna, ice ages, story upon story upon story.

Here and there on Exuma a road has been sliced through the backbone of the island, exposing in the soft carbonate rock the windblown layers of former sand, the tangled cavities of vanished roots, fossilized snails. Stories. Written, erased, and written again. The eternally revised poem of creation.