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Sara Dailey

The Imperfection of Geologic Records


When he leaves, gaps begin to accrue like sedimentary deposits, tessellation reversing as if Escher’s birds had suddenly flown off in each one of a thousand directions, leaving only bare branches behind, thin and arthritic like God’s fingers, pointing haphazardly at best. The finished puzzle, coming undone, separates into pieces, becomes only an unfinished pointillist painting, just a series of illogical dots.

In the mirror, a comprehensible image no longer stares back. More disappears each day, one coffee cup from the counter, a pair of jeans in the hall. I unlearn the shape of my jaw and hand.


No one prizes the fossil, that sure combination of pressure and time, in which even our imperfections are recorded, rendered forever unchangeable. Instead we prize the transitory, like astronomer Thomas Wright, who believed that Earth was insignificant when compared with the vastness of the universes, whose number he saw as infinite. In the drawing for Plate 32 of his New Hypothesis are a series of circles with enigmatic eyes in their centers, the eyes of an “incomprehensible Being” Wright called Creator, who watched over each universe, so that its inhabitants were never alone.

But for me, the heavens’ holy ovals mimic only the shape of a mouth, opened. So the frame becomes instead only the stutter of gasping. Inside that space, in the gaps, loss seeds itself, sows fissures in the brain, sparks electric through synapses, becomes sharp, like a series of cliff edges one is bound to fall off of.


Your bones are a kind of rock, mineral deposits calcifying under their sack of flesh. When you die, it will be those rocks that remain, the hills of your hands, the ridges of your ribs, a mountain of skull waiting for its own dissolution through time into nothingness.

If there is a day I take no more care dusting the box that holds my brother’s remains than the thrift store vase, will that mean I’ve healed? Or does the heart make room for a wound, the body learn to carry that extra weight, the belly a bowl of stones, that eats and eats but is never filled?

On my mantel, my brother’s body is a box of sand that I get lost in, a merciless desert devoid of direction, no longer navigable.


Sara Dailey has a B.S. in Writing from Mankato State and a M.A. in English from the University of St. Thomas. Her poems and essays have appeared in journals such as Ascent, Cimarron Review, The Bitter Oleander, Whiskey Island Magazine, and FragLit, among others. In 2009 she won the Shadow Poetry chapbook competition for her manuscript The Science of Want, which was also a finalist for the Flume Press prize. She works as a teacher and editor in St. Paul.