Wednesday, April 29, 2015

THE VERDICT: a poem about dinosaurs

I recently had this poem -the Tibetan translation of it that is- published on Chodmey, which I was really pleased about because I really like Chodmey. I thought it was going to be a pretty hard poem to translate. I mean, dinosaurs and fossils and paleontology… but my translator Jigme Nubpa did a translation so easily and seamlessly. This might be the first time that the Tibetan language has ever said, and created, Protoceratops and Oviraptors. You are welcome, Tibetan language.

It was published in the original English a gazillion years ago in 2011 in Indian Literature, the literary journal of the Indian Academy of Letters. They put out beautiful print copies but don't do online, so here it goes on the internet now. 


Ladies and gentlemen,

These trace fossils belong to 
our dearly departed Tyrannosaurus Rex.
I say this with surety because his foot prints lead to his open coffin. 
These Oviraptors, maligned raiders of Protoceratopsian nests, 
are cleared on all counts of assault, battery and theft,
when their legal counsel proves beyond a shadow of a doubt
that they were guarding the nests, 
not raiding them. The legal counsel,
in the style of Solomon and Sakyamuni and other wise men,
cracks open the disputed eggs in court. 
Out come - not baby Protoceraptops - but baby Oviraptors!

These Pterosaurs are not killing fish,
they are cleaning teeth and 
learning to swim.

I paste my judgment along my palette.
How my paleontology works for me.

If I take these bones home
and make them a nice bone bed and 
water them at regular intervals and take them out in the sun and
encourage them, love them perhaps, they will grow 
flesh and thin skin which will thicken into scales 
hard enough to leave scale impressions on cliffsides when
they squeeze their way through a narrow mountain pass.
But who wants dinosaurs in their homes?

There are only two ways of looking at the truth.
When the truth is buried, taken out and 
boxed up and buried in rock and 
no one attends its burial
but says, "how sad, how sad" and "what a world" and the truth is now a fossil,

a fossil of a point of view but a disreputable fossil,
which is to say, a fossil unable to withstand 
its burial, the cerement slowly wearing
out of being and with it the fossil
until it is all gone,
then we must employ the third way of looking
at the truth which is to look at the sediment infill in the rock,
which keeps the shape of truth as nicely as 
a bookmark keeps its place in a book.

The dinosaur takes the alternative to extinction.
He cuts a deal, keeps his clavicle, forsakes divine right, and 
agrees to electronic surveillance.

The meteorite has a name and a makeshift home, a cradle 
rounded like the smooth grave inner face of silvered spoons.
Perhaps it meant no harm.