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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.




© Copyright David Selzer
7 Responses
  • Ian Craine
    January 29, 2021

    Simply brilliant, David.

  • Keith Johnson
    January 29, 2021

    It is 4 am here in Wellington NZ as I wrestle with half-sleep and medication – and then I open my computer to the love of your poetry!

  • Alan Horne
    January 30, 2021

    I agree with the previous comments. This is particularly good.

  • Steve Crewe
    February 1, 2021

    A brief passage of time is recorded, nothing extraordinary in itself. Yet it emerged eons later, as if to remind us that how insignificant we are individually, yet combined a powerful force that can shape the destiny of our planet,

  • John Huddart
    February 5, 2021

    More excellent reflections on history, anthropology and everything! How do you do it?

  • Jeff Teasdale
    February 6, 2021

    Having just re-read Nicholas Crane’s excellent book, ‘The Making of the British Landscape. From the Ice Age to the Present’, this poem really does layer the barest minimum of the archaeologists’ findings from which they can glean masses of information, with a human presence.

    Like burial mounds in Anglesey, or cave paintings in Spain, they were all living breathing people with a story to tell. Fascinating, David, Thank you

  • David Selzer
    February 6, 2021

    Thanks, Jeff. Here are two poems on the site about burial mounds in Anglesey -CELLI DDU YNYS MÔN ( and SAPPHIRE (

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