[untitled]
J.N. Fishhawk
In response to the prompt found here.

the swamps stand eternal,
lungs, liver, and kidneys of the land, all in one–
cinnamon fern fossils in ancient shale
a testament, a message in our world’s 
oldest print—frond, blade, pinnule
dropped with a long-gone 
season’s pass, into water
burnt dark as midnight
with fertile death–
the quiet, un-sung
press of nature’s frail case
in antediluvian mud, a doorway
down the long corridors of 
planetary time.

I walk into black water
up almost to the tops of my galoshes
to seek that portal into eternity
that only cinnamon-fern swamps
keep—a doorway between the cypress
knees, where rich midnight muck makes
reels of reprints and endless edits
on life’s message in lichen, moss, trunk,
climbing vine and sunk, slimebound blade or bract.
I stop and stoop to see up close 
the drowned bones of a large loblolly leaf,
sketch for a fossil, all lace veins 
laid open over smaller, mud-suckling litter below.

March brings springtime spore-sowing,
a ritual almost as old as the living world itself,
the long fronds unfurl and send their cinnamon
dust out over sky-faced, placid water, 
every mosquito-dip ripple on its
surface–shimmering allcolor reflection
in the light and midnight 
in the hollows and shadows–
an echo, a doorway,
a foreshortened passage from sporophyte 
to gametophyte and back
via sorus, rhizoid, zygote–
bearers as in days of old
(days so gone as to be struck
in stone for eternity)
of the first landward green 
growing things’ 
water-borne message:
return, return, O
return