One day, after sunrise – in the time before
the ice sheets began to melt – a girl
or a boy, about twelve, carrying
an infant, walked quickly south with long strides,
stopping once to let the infant walk briefly.
At some point a woolly mammoth crossed their tracks,
and a giant sloth paused to sniff the air.
Later the young person walked back north alone.
The muddy footprints fossilised – some ten
millennia ago. The big beasts went,
and the forests that sustained them. Winds
blew white gypsum sands across the prints.
New people came, leaving pottery shards,
and remains of cooking fires. Others came,
following the buffalo from the plains;
others from the south with horses, and guns;
ever more from the east for the gypsum.
Last were those who built high, steel fences
topped with razor wire around missile silos.
All remarkable, of course, not least
forensic archaelogy’s calculus,
its calibrations, its storytelling:
across ten thousand years, that journey
of duty, fear and love.