JC Reilly is author of the chapbook, La Petite Mort (Finishing Line Press), and 25% co-author of a recently released anthology of occasional verse, On Occasion: Four Poets, One Year, from Poetry Atlanta Press. She has had work published in The Louisville Review, Southern Women’s Review, Xavier Review, Cider Press Review, and Java Monkey Speaks Anthology IV, among others. She lives in Atlanta with her three cats, a husband, and possibly a ghost.
In the third floor gallery you stand,
looking north toward a paint-chipped wall.
What did you see millions of years ago?
It wasn’t Nebraska then. Today’s prairies,
empty fields that wither to white at year’s end,
bloomed green twelve months: dense canopies,
valleys verdant with the leaves and petals
you preferred. A twenty-four hour buffet.
Of course, you were on the menu too—
those carnivorous Allosauri always scrounged
for the slow—no fans of eating on the run,
those guys—and you were slow. But how the spines
of your tail could knock them over, rattle
their walnut-sized brains, till you plodded your way
to escape, to new and tender plants, or to family.
You lived a modest, vegan life, became part of the soil
and shale, refreshing the earth like a reptile god.
So how can you stand it, exposed, reconstructed,
an oversized Tinkertoy that needs a good dusting?
after Stegosaurus Skeleton, Morrill Hall (University of Nebraska State Museum), Lincoln, Nebraska
Originally published in Flyover Country (offline as of this writing, archived here)
It’s a poem about a dinosaur! How can you not love a poem about a dinosaur? I love the vivid imagery of this piece, with the descriptions of what Nebraska must have been like well before it was Nebraska, as well as the claustrophobic feeling of the museum, with its paint-chipped wall.