Poetry: Visiting the Museum of Natural History with the Son I Don’t Yet Have



How do I explain
to the boy beside me
that the bones before us
are not dead?

That they were born on Christ’s birthday
and roamed the forest as wild things
for over a hundred million years?
That we burn them as oil,
those forests as coal?

That Jesus is fewer than five seconds old,
and one second ago Columbus
landed in San Salvador,
and boasted of his ability
to massacre like an asteroid?

How do I explain that he is not nine years old,
but one-sixty-fourth of a second;
his mother and me, untouched natives,
one-sixteenth of a second?

Or translate stories from Social Services
into the literature of selection,
the contingency of I chose you?

How do I explain
that in less than one second
we have seen science and revolutions,
world wars and moon landings?
Not the passing away of the previous,

but the life of writing?

When he strains to sound
the Latin names of species,
how do I explain that what he does with his life
still counts,
every split second?

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Will Stockton holds a PhD from Indiana University and teaches English at Clemson University. He writes books and essays about how people in the Renaissance had sex, and poetry about how modern people do. With D. Gilson, he is the author of Crush (Punctum Books) and Gay Boys Write Straight Porn (Sibling Rivalry Press). His poems have appeared in journals including Assaracus, Bloom, Fourth River, PANK, and Weave. He self-promotes over at www.willinoverplus.virb.com.