The naturalist

by Elizabeth Trew

He kneels among fossils
with his small brush and careful trowel,

sifts animal bones from plants and pollens
lodged in layers of earth, finds
the skull of a dog-bear
the sabre tooth of a cat
the neckbone of a sivathere,
beasts who browsed the soft leaves
of rainforests and marshes
their remains riverborne to a primal sea.

He digs to measure the weight of our world,
measures the depth of heat and ice
to fathom the strangeness of mineral earth.
On his small plot I find tiny bones:
the skull of a vlei rat
leg bones of toads
the teeth of many mice.

He tells me to dig deep and look
for the shape and nature of things.

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