“On Seeing My Home Move Backward Through Geological Time” by Amy Miller

Amy Miller


Of course I picture the actual house, my little peaked roof
riding the plate southward back through Neocene, Cretaceous,
beachfront, then sub-marine, and passing through the dinosaurs
so fast—they were only our granddads, but there before
the flowers began. So long—but what is long, when before them
everything felt the world die off, a 76 percent extinction,
and that’s not even the big one before that, when almost
all of the plants died. What I thought would be wonder
instead has me thinking about lab tests
and art and sitting with friends and laughing and the speck-
ness of us all, and the fathoms of space. And us,
just wisps, white forms on an x-ray, nature riffing out another sub-
species, us with wild impractical hair and voices
that sing at the kitchen window while we’re doing the dishes.
And although my neighbors have a new sound system
and The Lord of the Rings on endless replay, I feel
forgiving toward them tonight, with their magic
and sleepy brotherhood. I mean, it’s all extinction
eventually, and look at us, we made movies about
dinosaurs, and a boy walking by the water found the tooth
of a mammoth just last month—that recent in the blink
of life in the vast dry eye of the planet. It’s possible
to think more than one thing at once—that’s
evolution for you—and fear of leaving this life
rides right along with a oneness with the megalodons
and the algae. And the die-offs—I can hardly say
the word—we have all fallen, cancered, arterially
seized so many many times, entire oceans
of loss and leaving. Tonight four pillows
on the couch lie together like a pile of sleeping
cats. The prayer plant closes its long hands.
The Christmas lights will have to come down
from the doorway, dark bulbs from another
season, while the house moves swiftly through the year.

from Poets Respond
May 21, 2023


Amy Miller: “An interactive map that shows you where your town was in relation to landmasses and oceans millions of years ago has been making the rounds of social media this week. What begins as a fun diversion—‘My house was beachfront property in the Late Cretaceous!’—becomes an existential rabbit hole when you start reading the descriptions (lower left corner) of what was happening on the planet at that time. At many times, what was happening were mass extinctions. Pondering the massive die-offs and how many millions of years it took for life to rebound each time, and how often that has happened—it’s a staggering, sobering perspective. I probably learned this all in school, but I was young and it didn’t stick. It’s sticking now.” (web)

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