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Basin Camp

by Jesse Lichtenstein

Left luggage of long-vanished algae eaters
(these fields lacustrine once, submerged,
aquatically profuse) the small white
snail shells salt furrows and fallow lots.
So animal devolves to mineral,
mineral reconstitutes to crop. If fertile,
the ground’s also emptied up, ash gray
and alive: not contradictions but a mix
of human registers. A lake beyond
the bare ridge the water couldn't abrade
looks vestigial and still shrinking. A few streets
of the old grid remain. Hard to know
a sunken foundation’s age or if fence-rust
means old enough or merely old—any nail
might be original. The ridge rises to a cliff
edge to dominate the view. On its face
they cut their characters beside older glyphs.
If at its lip on apocryphal nights some
quitted the whole dry island of exile, they
rolled through snail dust like the small boulders
stalled beneath the cliff, and were collected.


Jesse Lichtenstein is a director of the Loggernaut Reading Series.  His prose and poetry appear or are forthcoming in The New Yorker, Boston Review, and Beloit Poetry Journal.  He lives in Oregon. (5/2005)

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