who knows the difference between lazurite and lamprophyre a rock is a rock is a rock is a rock unless a rock is an answer buried in the sediment layered without me and what will remain [future subjunctive] after a million years other than rocks in the shape of bones my fossilized skeleton named for the child whose geologist father stumbled upon it later touted as some missing link between lesser relatives and their species almost intact the speculated leftovers polymer resin model displayed a placard listing the sum of my species in a few terse lines not even these the future beings shuffle past oblivious to the doubts and loathing I have heaped upon myself another museum all the stones I have cast cast back and turning to dust [an imperfect an action begun at some point and continuing to the act's completion] the patterns of their lives striated in a way similar to my own if they still call themselves human and they will judge my epoch as a cephalopod and trilobite in limestone bas-relief the record suggesting an omnivorous species who husbanded meat and wore atomic time-keepers on wrists in an era of carbon emission that fueled [adjectivally limited upon the zeitgeist of the presenter's generation] consumption what do I truly add to the strata for Thisbe is to Juliet what Daphne is to Rebecca ###
Sean J. White
What is the significance of this work to you?
"geology" questions my value to and within society, as a lot of my work does. Something akin to a Baroque still-life painting, observations of the impending doom inherent to everything, and the desire to remain always on the mortal coil.
What is the significance of the form you chose for this work?
The significance of the form and the process are interrelated. I have written a number of similar poems, part of an incomplete manuscript for a poetic autobiography/memoir which will bear the title Listing Messenger. Each poem, including "geology," is an amalgamation of David Antin (stream of consciousness prosody), Allen Ginsberg (musicality), W. S. Merwin (punctuation), and Basho (aspirative form—the idea of expressed thought in a single breath).
What was your process for creating this work?
"geology" began with the image of "a cephalopod and trilobite in limestone bas-relief," something indelibly marked in me by the specimens my father collected on a college expedition become garden ornaments. From there I wrote out a number of phrases and words linked to the initial image. I then lathed and whittled those pieces, setting aside what I felt unusable, while at the same time adding more words and phrases. The framework appeared, leaving need for only ornamentation and a little polish. Weeks of work later, voilà!
Sean J. White arrived in prison in 1997 at the age of nineteen. His short fiction and poetry have appeared in a number of journals, most recently The Florida Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, The Normal School Online, and Raritan (forthcoming). He has received awards from PEN America's Writing Awards for Prisoners several times in various genres.