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An Outcropping

From ghost town to ghost town
in the Pine Barrens,
a pilgrim as much as anything,
I was following a stream
the aquifer, pure incipience,
made in surfacing, when I paused
to read an outcropping of limestone
with its display of lichen.
Cartography. The world
as it once was? Or to come?
No one waiting at my destination,
I stayed and let imagination
answer to lichen's unfurling:
continents holding mountains,
deserts, forests. Stone rivers
flowing into stone oceans
moved like ours by the moon.
A tiny spider making time across
dense greenery—piney woods,
say—disappeared from view
and into my memory of
a museum visit with my small son
to the world of a hundred million
years ago. Displayed above that map
a spider captured in amber,
in a bead like the ones that fell
from rafters in Grandma's attic.
When I was a child the disappearing
staircase took me to Grandpa's
toolbox with its silver plate reading
Joseph Miller
Coach and Pullman Carpenter
Atlantic Coast Line Railroad.

I'd strap on his belt
that nearly went around me twice
with its loops and pouches.
I found flooring to nail down tighter,
slivery uprights to sand,
distances in light and shadow
to measure with the hand-reel tape.
His bubble level
kept an eye on me.
Days themselves held in amber. Now
the wind brought a needle of
pine duff onto an unnamed
stone sea, then lifted it
into the current. I got back
to following a stream the aquifer
made in surfacing
from ghost town to ghost town.

Thomas Reiter

The Hudson Review

Autumn 2016

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