Aggregate

Moss covered stone

Sun beckoned

The snow runs off,

Stays in shadow.

Petrichor and

Woodsmoke.

Its said to

Follow beauty,

But forgets.

Swift water flows,

Slows at the bend

In the middle frozen

Hand outstretched

Hard pack and

Hardpan

Veins of quartz

Veins of clay

Dust and ash

Pockmarked with

Grinding rock

Laden and vacant

A thousand years.

Shot rock

In granite

In agate

In aggregate.

Pine needles

In a panic.

Wind summoned.

The sun sets

And fills pockets

Valleys

Inlets

Seethes against

Mountainside.

Long strides

And echo

Against cliff face.

Falling and fallen

Pebbles and ember.

Oxygen fed and

Carbon starved

Stars burn and

Scatter

Then

Burrow

Nestle

Soften the

Darkness.

Empty and desolate is the sea.

I buried you

In the marrow

Of my bones.

I carry you

In this wreckage.

This derelict

Body full of

Curses and portents,

Salted wounds and

Blood in the water,

Tall ships on

Strange shores.

Satellites in

Perpetual free fall

Following stars

Named for

Blasphemed

Gods,

All their supplicants

And temples

Long since consumed

By fire

Or by moorland

Drowned

And exhumed

A cuneiform adorned

Tomb

-MJG 2021

Tracks and Traces

Shigir Idol, photo by Constantin Voutsen

Have you ever heard of the Shigir Idol? It’s a 17 foot wooden statue that has been carbon dated to about 12,000 years old. Roughly at the end of the last ice age. Its named for the peat bog it was found in, on the eastern slope of the Middle Ural mountains near Yekaterinburg. It’s a striking sculpture, featuring several human faces and geometric lines and shapes. After being microscopically studied, it was discovered that the Shigir Idol’s features and designs were carved with half a beaver jaw with teeth still intact.

Since reading about the Shigir idol, I’ve been running my fingers over the grooves in my mind. Over and over again, tracing the carefully carved lines, feeling the smooth wood, stopping at every angle and turn. A prayer of sorts. A map leading backward. Veins. Beckoning mountain ranges and lakes and forests. An unimpeded night sky full of constellations. I wonder if it was meant for that. I wonder if, 12,000 years ago, the people responsible for creating it could fathom my doing so? I think they did. I think they meant for us to. It feels arrogant to make assumptions. Almost sacriledge.

The face at the “head” of the idol is placid, peaceful and seems to be singing. or breathing into the cold air. Or pleading. Or any number of things. But it is undeniably human.

I think about 12,000 years in the bog. The murky dark cast about with scattered sunlight only occasionally. The moss and the rock. The sediment. The sediment that drowned and preserved it. An ancient lake gasping. A toppled giant forever asleep. Why are tears so close when I do so? Why am I so moved? Why is it so easy to feel the weight of the clay and the water?

I feel a sort of kinship with both the Shigir Idol and the artists who created it. An eternal reaching forward. Toothed beaver jaw, warm wood, calloused hands. Shaped and molded, tracks and traces, whispered truths and prayers. Nightmares and daydreams. Falling. Sinking. Turning to stone unseen. 12,000 years undreaming. Hieroglyph after hieroglyph. Surfacing in pieces. Messages and lessons in the lesions.