Willie’s Hole is gently filled with flowing
imprints of time. Whiteadder Water falls
lightly, sparkling, over lips of stone. Breaking
lines of effervescence form and froth and crawl
slowly over the mudstone horizon. Creeping
common lizards stop to bask along the banks. The tall
oaks, shining green, are filled with the sound of chirping
tits. Blackbirds grasp the branches in their claws.
Lighting into the river, his waders create waves.
An interference pattern spreads out over the pool,
neat peaks silvered in the bright sunlight, save
dark gaps of cancelled-out energy. The water feels cool
sliding over his legs, as he moves over paved
flashes of rock in the soft river bed. He takes the tool
out of his rucksack, ready to collect and save
records of our pre-historic past. Time to start school –
Mr Wood is ready to teach. He hefts out a boulder,
slate-grey like a tablet, but its chalk-marks lying hidden,
covered in lines of hard-pressed sediment – older
layers of brown mud that, disturbed, cloud our vision
of time’s riverbed. Mr Wood sees through it. His eyes are bolder.
Step after idiosyncratic step bring him closer to the risen
edge of solid earth. He drops the stone. Rubs his shoulder.
Regards his prize, like an eagle watching a kitten.
Out of days like this – and after painstaking preparation –
Mr Wood’s artefacts revitalise stalled
education. Ribs rise and fall with excited respiration.
Readers of journals revise the record. Enthralled
scientists marvel at new wonders from the Tournaisian.
Generations of students to come will have to recall
a name, a man, who paces restless with anticipation,
pricing finds in his shop. But Mr Wood’s Fossils are priceless, all.
This poem was written for the 2018 Hugh Miller Writing Competition, but was not shortlisted. I don’t think it’s something I could get published anywhere, but I enjoyed writing it, so I’m giving it a home here. You can find out more about Stan Wood here and about Scottish fossil finds and Romer’s Gap here.