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THE EXCAVATION / Kathleen Shumate It is late afternoon. The sun swelters on my back, and I dig, break up dirt, scoop, sift, look for a sign— a tooth, a fingerbone, a bit of skull. I am in Olduvai Gorge where time layers itself tan, rust, cream, and patiently I descend the sloping surface— Bed II, Bed I— sieve for threads of hips, hands, arms, legs, ribs, jaw; then fit together each bone, carefully match joint to socket, reveal your lanky frame— yes—it is you— jawbones slight and smooth, collarbone strong to hold the volume of your chest. And I can tell by the way your pelvis sits, femur thrown out, bipedalism evident in the way your heel and toe bones connect. A hipbone rests in my hand, and I see you beyond savannah grass try to stand erect. I rest the fossil against my cheek— even cold stone cannot extinguish 50 · The Missouri Review the flame you think you see. I stroke my thumb up your thighs, flesh begins to clothe bones, and you are not this ancient man come to life beneath my fingertips, and it is not four million years ago, it is now. I can rest my palm amid the hair on your chest, my face in the hollow of your arm, climb in. Kathleen Shumate The Missouri Review · 51 ...


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