BY LUCIAN MATTISON
Rattlesnake Creek, FL
At first, you said no when I told you
I found taillights, halves of soda cans,
weathered glass in the creek—how one time
I kicked a water moccasin out of a sunken car
radiator, as if this were a surefire way
of convincing you to come. I thought it would
never happen, until you asked me if I was free.
It was June, I was jobless, and you were the one
asking. From the car door to the river,
we were the kind of quiet that stutters inside
an idling engine. We dragged our feet
upstream through braids of water,
ankles like fallen branches carving rifts
in the flow. We stopped at deposits,
shallow gradients where we could read the stream
over a pillow, where the shark teeth collect.
Our knees dug into the riverbed, mosquitoes
latched onto arms, our hands pleasure curled calices.
We lifted fistfuls of sediment, fingers sweeping,
straining, and sifting sieves picking out teeth: fossilized
ray, serrated edges of prehistoric tiger sharks—
remnants of a time when this whole state
was a hidden landmass, rising up from the sea.
When the sun folded over the canopy line,
I lifted a white shark’s tooth from the bottom—
tall as a thumb, crown from wet shale,
broad chevron decorating the base with a stripe
of Miocene perfection. We ran our fingertips
over ridges, a primal texture like nothing
I’d ever touched before. Feet sunk
in the mud of that afternoon, our nerves
shed like wet clothes, you spilled over me
like silt. I held what felt like millions of years
converging in one place—your right hand
an open bloom. I set the fossil in your palm
like it was fate, this hollow space only I could fill.