Off season, and the tourists for the most
     part back on the mainland until next
holiday, my brother the scientist
     digs for his lost etiology,
his fons et origo on a palm isle;
     this archaeological work-in-progress
begun only a few years earlier,
     researching our family mythology.

I will watch him for long hours on end
     under an interrogative sun-
he has hollowed out a deep depression
     in the unyielding soil; I have ceased
to fear for his safety, my brave brother
     in the trenches, despite the site’s cruel &
impossible terrain with its faults &
     fissures that threaten to swallow him whole.

I wonder what vast cache of treasures may
     be hidden just beneath the hard earth
in which he excavates; pedestal,
     plinth or column, perhaps from some time-worn
temple foundation, some half-buried ruin.
     I also imagine all manner
of unspeakable horror- mummified
     remains, torture chambers and the like

below ground, in caverns & catacombs
     beneath the terraced surface of his
dig. He will carefully remove each
     inch of dirt; sift, sort, categorize &
compile the data as he brushes off
     every encrusted fragment he can pull
up, searching for clues long buried in these
     acres of strata; for what appears

to be just more rock ends up as charred bone;
     what at first seemed to be scratches
reveals hieroglyph, ancient scripture or
     pictograph mapping; what looked to be
but gravel deceives the untrained eye-
     here pot shards accidentally discarded.

Autumn cracked open like birth yesterday,
     like a difficult labor with an
unplanned child & suicidal mother,
     and I have taken the last
ferry back to the city, leaving
     him alone in his alluvium silt.