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Archaeology

I went to the basement where my father kept his skulls.

I stood before the metal utility shelves. Skulls to the ceiling.

I looked into the eyeholes. I looked into a cranium’s tomahawk hole.

Down there, it was nothing but his lab. I held

those skulls like empty pots. What did I know about Indian pots?

Some days, we went to the bars. I swung my legs from the barstool

and drank my Coke. Some days, he dug the fields.

Then it was skulls in the sink, skulls in the drying rack.

The fields are full of skulls. You have to know where the plows

turn them up. What did I know, then, about digging?

The dark inside the eyeholes. He wrote his notes on them

in indelible ink. 2.7 pounds. 2.5. The fields are full of pots.

It’s true. He told me, packing his shovel into the Volkswagen.

What did I know about Indians? He kept a lab in our basement

because the university was too cheap. I went to the basement

where he kept his skulls. I looked into their eyeholes. I loved

their weight, but what did I know? When I lay in bed,

they glowed down there. It was many years ago. I closed my eyes

and the skulls talked in the basement. Indian pots. Teeth.

The noise of sex from his room. At the bars, farmers told him

what their plows turned up. I drank my Cokes. Cheap university

without a decent lab. The skulls spoke a language no one knew.

Look at this, my father said, rinsing another one in the sink.

This one took a bullet to the head. History, then, was silence.

from The Art of FictionFind more by Kevin Prufer at the library

Copyright © 2021 Kevin Prufer
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

Published in Kevin Prufer Poems

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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