“Self-Portrait as Mastodon Remains” by Christina Olson

Christina Olson


the skull has been punched once             twice

eleven thousand years later, the paleontologist 

fits another tusk into the holes & sees

what damage the mouth can wreak

once upon an epoch, one mastodon bleeds out

& another one has a killer toothache

mastodon, no one ever told you that a hairy coat 

hides all the blood             or that the head 

weeps from any hole it sees fit to

when your bones are resettled in the flood

do not mourn the scattering of jaw from rib

& hasn’t the heart begged free from the tongue

when they find what remains of your mouth, smile

finally revealed despite the blue effort of glacier

mastodon:             the words breast + tooth in Greek

that was my last kiss             my best kiss

from The Last Mastodon
2019 Rattle Chapbook Prize Winner


Christina Olson: “In summer of 2017, I was invited to serve as poet-in-residence for a paleontology conference and exhibition (“The Valley of the Mastodons”) at the Western Science Center in Hemet, California. These pieces were inspired by that time spent among the paleontologists as well as my observations of the museum’s collections of fossils, particularly Max the Mastodon.” (web)


Christina Olson is tonight’s guest on the Rattlecast! Tune in live at 9pm ET by clicking here.

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