In luminous amber, the thin articulated vertebrae of a Coelurosaur, feathered landlubber, festooned with thousands of wispy fluffs—like leaves, rachis with pinnules, chestnut-color on top, colorless on the bottom—probable cousin of the “chicken from hell.” Neither destined to endure—
Like the rodent, Bramble Cay Melomys, recently extinct. Or the Darwin Fox, numbers dwindling as earth, once recovered, gets increasingly inhospitable. Our generations will also shrink. The Formicidae will prosper, a most dubious hero—
The ant. One glows in a prehistoric radiant resin blob, its multi-chambered spine—head, thorax, bloated abdomen. Six legs. Each bends in three places—eighteen joints motored him through ferns and conifers, under lumbering heavy-head dinosaurs and tiny-brained armored grass grazers, between the legs of cockroaches. The species marched 100 million years to the other side of the K-T mass extinction, dropping small white eggs on its way, colonizing almost every landmass. Survivors. At any moment, 10 quadrillion walk the planet—
And in her bed, my mother. Her bowed back, its protruding spinous process, like a nautilus’ chambers, spirals inward toward oblivion. She slowly becomes a fossil of herself; I, like the archivist, note the world disappearing before my still-good eyes, wishing I could change nature’s course—uncurl her.
Notes: This poem is based on findings reported by Kristin Romey in “First Dinosaur Tail Found Preserved in Amber,” which appeared online in National Geographic. The phrase “chicken from hell” is from Christine Dell’Amore’s National Geographic article, “New ‘Chicken from Hell’ Dinosaur Discovered.” The K-T extinction refers to the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction. Information about ants comes from Robbie Gonzalez’s “10 Frightening Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About Ants,” published online at Gizmodo, and Jolene Creighton’s “10 Crazy Facts About Ants,” which appeared at futurism.com.
Author Bio: Robin Rosen Chang’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Cream City Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, North American Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Paterson Literary Review, Vinyl, Yemassee, and others. She was the recipient of the Oregon Poetry Association’s Fall 2018 Poet’s Choice Award and a finalist for Warren Wilson’s 2018 Levis Alumni Award for her manuscript in progress. She has an MFA from the Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College.