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.

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