Timothy Geiger

In this moment, in the violence

In this moment, in the violence

of all this world we inhabit—

the crushed shell of a duck egg

next to the nest, the hutch door

pried open, the drake still beating

his furious wings at the tracks

trailing into high clover, storms

to the south dragging cloud vapors

like solemn veils through the low sky—

it’s too easy to forget forgiveness

and go fetch my gun; because I am

American, rural, Midwestern,

and revenge is a favored disciple,

full of bluster and no second-chance.

But when I see it, the muskrat,

in its bedraggled coat, slick fur

more knotted tassel than quill,

clay black eyes the shade of mud,

yolk dried yellow staining its chin,

rising on its hind legs in the back field,

all judgement is temporarily repaired

by wonder. Had the dog done the same

his punishment would be meager.

But thunder roils the sky and shakes

the poplars, and I’m raising the barrel

half-hearted to convince myself

I have this one job to become.

"In this poem the notion of a trace fossil is an evocation of something primal, an imprint or instinct left behind. It is the primal nature of violence, of revenge, of security, and finally of the natural world itself—the wonder of something just being what it is—a muskrat searching for its next meal. The question becomes which primal instinct will win out in the end? For what it’s worth, I didn’t end up shooting the muskrat, but instead secured the duck hutch and put a stronger latch on the door."

Guardian of the Farm

Timothy Geiger is the author of the poetry collections Weatherbox, (winner of the 2019 Vern Rutsala Poetry Prize from Cloudbank Books), The Curse of Pheromones (Main Street Rag Press), and Blue Light Factory (Spoon River Poetry Press), as well as ten chapbooks. He runs a small farmstead in northwest Ohio (overrun with goats, pigs, chickens, ducks, and dogs), operates Aureole Press (a letterpress imprint publishing contemporary poetry since 1989), and is a professor of English (teaching creative writing, poetry, and book arts) at The University of Toledo.

Why is this piece your Trace Fossil?