Her Historical Geology, Latitudes

Her Historical Geology

For a decade she led the geology department at a prestigious liberal arts school
in the suburbs of a northeastern American city. In the rusting Chevy van,

all the college could afford, she drove handfuls of students along winding roads
into ancient rounded mountains to study exposures dynamited

as if expressly for her lectures—she patting rock walls, inviting protégés to smack hammers
against schist for chunks to hold to louped eyes to find each mineral she catalogued,

especially the garnets because they were her favorite for their crimson translucence
and diamond-shaped facets and for how they reminded her of the wonder of crystal faces

always telling the miniscule molecular structure in their perfect larger geometries
since that is how matter clings to matter, in lattices and sheets and at particular angles

fixed by the tiniest particles zipping around at the fastest speeds
in the smallest orbits. She was a different she in those days, allowed to be quieter,

before publishing the tract that told morning runners how to see the history of the landscapes
through which they trailed by touch of foot and heave of chest—

the lift of ground, the cut of wave, the fall of silt, and so to grok
roundnesses of bays, reposes of composite volcanos’ gently-sloped snow-clad cones,

localness of castle rampart stones, also sheer cliff-ness of divorce, fluvial aspects
of love, and corundum strength of mothers in labor, also their own corundum labors,

and their own fluvial aspects, and their own sheernesses, and their own localnesses
and reposes and roundnesses before their own extinctions. Her life in recent years

is, and resembles most, clogging clays sinking through cold meltwater to muddy bottoms
of glacial tarns of faraway frosty U-shaped valleys. Her death will go

as unremarked as a single spruce or orca or gabbro—yet your thorax
will fissure, your throat erode, your photos and mementos wash to sea

from tears over-spilling levees banked around your fissile heart tissue
—and will leave no record.

In northern latitudes we think we know cold dampness,
frost, and chill. It is safer to winter if honey is good
and enough. If honey be given.

We never winter without thirty pounds of honey.
We have given honey. In winter it is necessary
that honey pass through the city, a devotion of honey.

In preparing for winter we protect, in every diameter,
the spaces between dried leaves. Many words
are said for this method of wintering.

It is a guard against extremes and sudden changes—
warm, fine, a cushion. Like covering with boughs
of evergreen. Our losses arrested. Our scantlings in place.

                          Erasure from How to Keep Bees (1905) by Anna Botsford Comstock

Pamela Hobart Carter is the author of Her Imaginary Museum (Kelsay Books, 2020) and Held Together with Tape and Glue (from Finishing Line Press, 2021). For over 30 years, she taught science, art, and preschool. On the side she wrote plays, poems, fiction, and non-fiction. Now she writes full-time and teaches on the side. A dozen of her plays have been read or staged in Seattle (where she lives), Montreal (where she grew up), and Fort Worth (where she has only visited). Carter has two degrees in geology—from Bryn Mawr College and Indiana University. An activity of the last months: adding “Make a Poem at Home: 12 Poetry Lessons for COVID Times,” to her website.

“Latitudes” was originally published in Heron Tree.

One thought on “Her Historical Geology, Latitudes

Leave a Reply