The fossil forest



Below me, a flat expanse of rock
jutting into the sea
like a stage for shadows—

there’s nothing standing,
the humans tending
to stoop and crawl,
drawn down to the ground
to touch old memories
of trees, laid down
however many million years ago—
that’s however many life cycles,
your Sofia grown to carry a daughter
on her hip on the beach
however many times over.

Back then, when this was a hill
inside a continent
the forest here was skittled
the trees left lying
their cells departing
and then replaced
one by one
by silicates—
now only echoes of trees,
an empty stave,
the black bark ridges
cold under my fingers.

What would you make, girl of the great plains,
of this rock grown in the mould of a tree
then stripped bare by new sea—
like skeletons blown free of sand.


Naomi O’Connor is a writer and editor living in Wellington, in reasonably happy exile from the South Island. It would be good to go back. Either for ever or once a month. She has been a student at both Canterbury and Victoria Universities, and thinks the blame should always lie with the artist.