Joel Brouwer


From behind a stand of Utah yucca, jackrabbits
scattering at her feet like minnows
from a rock dropped in creek, enter
The Geologist. Jeans stained with every kind
of dirt the world provides, tousled sandstone
hair tied back, she scans the mountains
which bound this basin two hundred miles
to the west and reads them
like a gambler walking the shed-row
before placing his bets. The plates in this basin
move fast, she says, about an inch
per century. Where they meet head on
they rear up like horn-locked rams
and form ranges. But the summits erode
as fast as the planes buckle up, so these mountains
are always the same height but never
the same mountains. If we made a movie
where a million years elapsed
every second, that range would look like a fountain.
It's The Geologist's job to think like this.
In the trade they call it Deep Time: a place
where the eons pass like clocks tick.
The Geologist stands on Cape Cod facing east
and imagines herself aft
on the ship North America, full speed ahead,
the harbor of Europe growing hazy as she waves
from the railing. The Grand Canyon
is a crease in a hand, Vesuvius a nostril.
Tired, I put down my book, study
our bodies in lamplight. My pale feet
are awkward, scrawny. You're deep
under sleep, between your lips
an infinitesimal crevasse. We are less
than gasps, my sweet, crumbs in the pocket
of a flea. I kiss your eyelids. How tender they are,
thin as moth wings. All night the whole earth
heaves like an ocean beneath them.


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