Flight 857

By: Loren Eiseley

Originally Published in 1972

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Loren Eiseley, the well-known author, is Curator of Early Man at the Uni­versity Museum. This poem “Flight 857” is reprinted by permission of Charles Scribner’s Sons from NOTES OF AN AL­CHEMIST. Copyright 1972 Loren Eiseley. Soon to be published by Charles Scribner’s Sons.

Nosing in through a blizzard over Denver at thirty thousand feet I think what the earth covers at Lindenmeier there far away to the north of those men we never found of ten millennia ago but still finding the heavy-headed beasts of the gone time, finding in the end how short one’s own existence, one pauses.

I suppose, beyond the low clouds and the snowfields, lie the marks of the trenches where forty years ago we dug and we found them, found the Ice Age long-horned bison, the deadly point buried still in the massive vertebra. We proved something; they write about it in books now but that lost doorway of snow through which the hunters were enticed to venture will eventually close behind us also.

Staring north through the falling flakes, the hills invisible, I think just once of the moment when the fluted chalcedony dropped into my hand but really I know now it should never have been resurrected any more than these wheels and wings and electronic voices should ever again be lifted from oblivion.

I hope they do not find us: the point should remain in the vertebra, the offering by the dead child in the cave, the pterodactyl in the slate, the poet in the lost book, the singer as song in the grass.

Why must we usurp the autumn leaf’s prerogative or the cancellations of running water or the erasures of the dust? Like the hunters, we will leave deadly slivers of glass where they left flint, the metal will oxidize.

We will be dangerous if found by anything wiser than a field mouse. I hope he will take it upon himself to betray no secrets nor resurrect even that little artifact the mousetrap lest it be disastrously reactivated.

It would take a glacier to pulverize us completely to chalk dust, but even at Lindenmeier the hunters had the grace to tiptoe away with the last mammoth.

We never found them, only their flints. So be it forever with us and all those who come after. Amen.

Cite This Article

Eiseley, Loren. "Flight 857." Expedition Magazine 15, no. 1 (September, 1972): -. Accessed February 25, 2024. https://www.penn.museum/sites/expedition/flight-857/


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