Thursday, August 19, 2021

What’s Most Important Shall Be Preserved

Think about this, next time you’re
Taking a shit in the woods,
Probably half expecting
Nature to remove all trace
Of your shallow burial
Within a season or so—
The dinosaurs’ coprolites

From seventy million years
And more ago can be bought
Online or in specialty
Stores, alongside rocks and gems
And other, rarer fossils.
Closer to home, a chicken
Egg, whole, was excavated

From a site once a latrine
A millennium ago
In the Levant, preserved thanks
To soft human excrement
Into which it had fallen.
Most likely someone dropped it.
The libraries of Chang’an,

Of Herculaneum, of
Alexandria and of
Copenhagen, burnt to ash,
The scrolls of Presocratics,
Sappho, lost works on bamboo
From the era of Zhuangzi,
Are gone, seem gone forever,

But that chicken egg
Someone took to the latrine,
Not far from Jerusalem,
And fumbled into the shit,
Has been preserved by that shit,
Lovingly excavated,
And sent to a museum.

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