The Ammonite | Teen Ink

The Ammonite

November 21, 2012
By Sarcopterygian GOLD, Gilford, New Hampshire
Sarcopterygian GOLD, Gilford, New Hampshire
14 articles 0 photos 1 comment

Favorite Quote:
"Look forward" -a friend

Such wonderful creatures
The past divulges.
What secret do you hold,
Tiny whorl of shell?
How did you live
In those antediluvian seas?
What beasts you faced,
What storms you braved!

They come to my beach,
Top hats and coattails,
And look over the rocks at me
In my plain dress.
They shake their heads.
But in truth, in nature,
There is no upper class,
Yet they stay blind.

The other women
Leave the rocky shores,
Discover the men of their dreams.
I make more profound discoveries
Than they can imagine
From behind their whitewashed fences,
Their fancy lace and ribbons.

A timeworn man looks at me
Through his spectacles, and asks
If I know I excavate lies,
Tells me that God would not want
Me to be doing this.
The old fool doesn’t know
What God would want—
Which is for me
To dig up the truth.

Little creature, I understand you.
I endure them every day,
But now I look upon your rocky relic
And as they come at me,
All snapping jaws and flapping fins,
I pull back within my shell
And sail onward through my own seas,

The author's comments:
This poem is dedicated to a real person who is a sort of hero of mine, a 19th-century paleontologist named Mary Anning. Back in those days, fossil-hunting was the cool thing to do, but making big discoveries that changed how people viewed the world were not supposed to be made by lower-class people, nor young people, nor women, all three of which Mary Anning was. She was also a religious dissenter, as was her whole family, making her an outcast in the creationist world of the time. She lost her father at the age of eleven and had to support her family on her own, selling fossils to make money. At the same time she discovered plesiosaurs and ichthyosaurs, and made many findings of baculites, ancient fish, the first pterosaur from outside Germany, and, yes, ammonites. I thought the ammonite in particular would make a nice symbol for self-protection; if they were threatened by a predator, they could just retreat within their shell, and Mary Anning (in the poem) does a similar thing to protect herself from the harsh words of others. After her time, she was much more appreciated, listed among Britain's top 100 most influential women and considered one of the most prominent heroes of paleontology in history.

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