KENT LEATHAM


Kent Leatham's poems and translations have appeared in dozens of
journals, including Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, Fence, Zoland,
Able Muse, and Poetry Quarterly. He received an MFA from Emerson
College and a BA from Pacific Lutheran University, served as an
associate poetry editor for Black Lawrence Press, and currently
teaches creative writing at California State University Monterey Bay.






You Should Want to Know

how the first Spinosaurus aegyptiacus fossil,
sealed in its cupped palms of stone,
catalogued by Ernst Stromer in 1915,
displayed at the Munich Palaeontological Museum,

was destroyed by Allied bombs in 1944,
remembered after only by photos and notes,
the bones, undone, too gone to reclaim a second time.

*

"You should want to know," my mother said,
cupping the kit in her hands, a gift.
"Your father could have been anyone."

DNA.
A tube of spit,
sealed, sent off to a lab, the way

he left his code in a cup
for her,
me,

then gone, fingers
splayed to let this sand
sift through.

*

"Improvement of the precision of size estimates for Spinosaurus
requires the discovery of more complete remains, especially
the limb bones, which are hitherto mostly unknown."

"It would be good to get confirmation, such as the original excavation map,
to show that all of the parts definitely came from a single skeleton."

*

Born too soon,
I tried to die.

They put me in a cup of air
and sealed the lid.

Now, mouth dry,
I sign my spit

and copy the code:
CWJ 16BL 840.

(Stromer's hundred-million-year-old
Spinosaur holotype: BSP 1912 VIII 19)

*

The genetics company, testing for both
ethnic footprints and inherited risk,

warns if I've been diagnosed with
or found myself susceptible to
"anxiety, depression, or suicidal tendencies"

to not read the results next month
as some can't withstand the hard shell
or volatile interior triggers of truth:

cancer, dementia, the slow shadows and
bombs of loss.

*

Along with the find of his life, Ernst
Freiherr Stromer von Reichenbach

(a member of one of the oldest lines
in Nuremberg, dating back seven-hundred years,

and hated by the Nazi museum director
for criticizing the Third Reich)

lost two of his three sons
in the German army in World War II

(the third, captured by Soviets, twice
threatened with execution for not

aiding in production of poison gas,
was not released until 1950).

Life undone, fossils gone,
claims corrupted back to dust,

"his name gradually faded
from the academic literature."

Their names were Ulman, Gerhart,
and Wolfgang.

*

Stone. Bone. Bomb. Seed.

Fathers, lost.
Sons' seals sprung.

A monster so unique we'll never
see exactly how it was.

Take this cup, my blood.
Drink.

You should always want to know.



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