“Language is fossil poetry” Ralph Waldo Emerson
What is preserved unchanged

Words that are no longer words alone:

is monstrous in our eyes because our minds

amok, bated, beck, caboodle
druthers, dudgeon, eke, fettle

teem with hunger and are not sated.

and mettle, jetsam, spick

We eked the nature of T. rex by one serrated tooth
one fossil extracted from out the veines and wombe of the earth and no longer
part of the whole, so odd and out of place.

vim, wreak, ken and kith

The tooth reveals by its spick shape
enough for us to know a certain world

words separate, fossilized.
Hold each on your tooth,
each one wrought, then buried.

Upon extraction it is nothing more than itself,

Singular, and yet itself alone,
it is without meaning,

but extracted, lifted up, in that singular revelation, in that lifting from the shadow
it is wonderful.


Note: italicized phrases are from Pierre Boaistuau’s Certaine Secrete Wonders of Nature, 1569, and Sir Thomas Palmer’s An Essay of the Meanes . . ., 1606.


Athena Kildegaard is the author of four books of poetry: Ventriloquy, recently released from Tinderbox Editions, Rare Momentum, Bodies of Light (a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award), and Cloves & Honey (a finalist for the Midwest Book Award). She lives in Morris, Minnesota, where she teaches.