02.6.2012

Koch’s Bones

A stretched head with
Formidable jaws,
A series of ribs forming
A large ovoid body and
The vestiges of flippers
Arranged in undulating shape,
One hundred fourteen feet in length,
Those bones Dr. Koch
Displayed in the Apollo Saloon,
Broadway 1845,
Hydragos Sillimanii, or
Silliman’s master-of-the-seas,
Its head raised into position —

“Dr. Koch, this must be a hoax.
You may fool the public,
Who are of shallow persuasion,
But not the eyes of
A skilled anatomist:
The teeth have double roots,
Meaning it’s a mammal, and
These bones come from
Several different skeletons
Cunningly arranged into one.
I don’t doubt you found
These saurian remains of the
Tertiary Age Basilosaurus
In Alabama. Negro slaves
Believed them to be
The bones of fallen angels.”

Despite the occasional charade,
Koch was no charlatan.
Removing flints from the bones
Of mastadons and giant sloths
He proved that man had lived
In North America centuries
Before Columbus. Koch
Despaired of a world
Composed wholly of reason,
The often damning and
Indifferent nature of which
At times cannot be reconciled.

Eric Hoffman (© 2012)