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The Past is Always Coming "Shall I Compare Thee to a Backfill Pile?"
April 27, 2000
by Amy Holman

Never are we lost for long--
just pick up that chain, Marie Antoinette,
and pull. The dried heart of the last Dauphin
can now be buried between beheaded bodies
of Mere and Pere, restoring French
record above storybook escape.

A beast made bald and cold by art
and museum, yields an unwieldy bird heart,
all stone and smart. Those lucky paleontologists,
like boys over buried treasure--vaulted
years reduced to essence--watch as
wrens fly through this opened window
to all four rooms--who are you, what are you,
how are you, where are you?

I love how secrets reveal
we should not hold a grave within
the heart, or make history
our only truth.

The howler monkeys and
woolly anteaters whose genetic
code has clung to the stone palace
of BC Mayans for several hundred
generations, as they have
branch and root, must depart
after this rainy season dries.
Archaeologists will sweep away thickets
of vine, photograph and dig,
ponder, pontificate, then bestow
upon world civ ancient Cancuén's
bright trust. After which,
no one will be allowed to live
on artifact streets, inspect floors
for insects, or swing from storey
to storey. And rare birds
that found their talon-hold here,
will scatter, disoriented plumes
stroking the skies like Cèzanne.
They'll die first,
in the four-chambered hearts
that remember home and again,
all through cousins and natural history.

Look at this photograph of hands
holding a broken nest. Are these palms
our anthropologist delighting a find,
or every ornithologist kneeling in despair?

Amy Holman's poetry collection, Vanishing Twin, was published in April 2002 by Mitki/Mitki Press.

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© 2001 by the Archaeological Institute of America