Size / / /

This thin layer

This film, oily and black

Flecked with mica

Locked in the ground

An estimated 6.2 million years

(+/- 1.7)

Their world-spanning culture

(We find the layer in 7 of 10 planetary domains)


Reading molecules

Plucked from nacreous spheres

We can build Them

In body and spirit

If not in memory

Our biochemical keys fit fossil locks

These ancient masters

Or maybe one of their pets

we will know when we give it

A Turing test

If it passes

We will really have something!

Oh yes,

A true alien intelligence

Rescued from the late Miocene

And educated

With all the care we can muster.

David Kopaska-Merkel describes rocks for the State of Alabama. He lives with artists and numerous chitin-clad hangers-on in an urban farmhouse with a yellow "tin" roof. He was born in Virginia, but has lived in the home of the crookneck as long as anywhere. David's poetry collections include The Egg Show, Separate Destinations, and underfoot. Flash fiction can be found at; find more of David here and here. He may also be reached by email at

David C. Kopaska-Merkel won the 2006 Rhysling Award for a collaboration with Kendall Evans, edits Dreams & Nightmares magazine, and has edited Star*Line and several Rhysling anthologies. His poems have appeared in Asimov’s, Strange Horizons, and elsewhere. A collection, Some Disassembly Required, winner of the 2023 Elgin Award, is available from him at
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20 May 2024

Andrew was convinced the writer had been trans. By this point his friends were tired of hearing about it, but he had no one else to tell besides the internet, and he was too smart for that. That would be asking for it.
You can see him / because you imagine reconciliation.
It’s your turn now. / the bombs have come in the same temper— / you in your granny’s frame
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