They believe that what they really want is just
to go on living in the salty estuary waters, but
for too long they have watched the limestone
tower, its completion and the slow decline of
the first residents. Today, they enter the door.
They ascend the steep spiraling stairs, passing
room after vacant room, but when they reach
the pinnacle, they see that the mud flat where
they were born, and where they walked on all
four legs, is one of innumerably many craters.
On the horizon, at the edge of this wasteland,
the bronze streaks of meteors vanish, leaving
bitter afterimages in their sensitive eyes, used
only to the shadows and fog that have always
protected them from their reptilian predators.
The intricate glass mosaics on the walls mean
virtually nothing to them, but the acid-etched
shapes recall the luminous plankton that drift
in the labyrinthine caves from which none of
their explorers has ever returned in one piece.
This will be the final time their glands secrete
the mucus that shields their colorless corneas
and the first they huddle together for warmth
on a frigid slab, in a wind blowing toward the
outer reaches, into which all things must fade.
Gregory Kimbrell is the author of The Primitive Observatory (Southern Illinois University Press, 2016), winner of the 2014 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award. His poems have appeared in Blackbird, The Laurel Review, and the Abaculi Project. He is the events and programs coordinator for Virginia Commonwealth University Libraries. A devotee of Japanese avant-garde theater and dance, he hopes someday to produce a play in the style of Shūji Terayama. In his vivid nightly dreams, he travels time and space and has adventures with celebrities such as technopop group Perfume and film stars Max von Sydow and Liv Ullmann.