Liam Wholihan

Dumb scuttlebone thing,

Dumb scuttlebone thing,

you are my father’s favorite color

& mine too: soaked

wood thick & shining.

If I could, I’d wear my bones

on the outside like you

& never swim again,

how I’d drop my chin & crawl flush

against the sand— what certainty! to be

445 million years into the word brackish,

taking my ten-legged time

on the beach, daring gulls

to crack their beaks on my skin

while tourists watch &

I give nobody a reason to know

my blood dollops blue, & so bright.

"Logistically, I'm not sure we could survive writing poems if they were body fossils. But a trace fossil, an imprint of the animal rather than the animal itself, gives us some leeway. We can leave a footprint and go on living. At its best, this poem collects imprints I worry might otherwise not be preserved. I'd love to say I only write trace fossils, but that can't be the case, as not every footprint, trail, burrow, or trace fossilizes. A couple get lucky, like this poem, which is an ode of sorts to the horseshoe crab, an attempt to preserve the little footprints they make on the beaches of my home which wash away in minutes, the imprint they make on me, and the imprint they make on most of us. Horseshoe crab blood is an essential ingredient in the Limulus Amebocyte Lysate test, which is used in testing the effectiveness of vaccines. If you've ever been vaccinated, it's in your blood too."

Horseshoe Crab

Liam Wholihan's other poems appear in The Dewdrop, Kelp, Red Noise Collective, Quail Bell Magazine, and others. He uses his MFA in poetry to teach creative writing at Point Park University and drive a Zamboni.

Why is this piece your Trace Fossil?