The Age of Dinosaurs

By James Scruton James Scruton
There are, of course, theories
about the wide-eyed, drop-jawed
fascination children have for them,
about how, before he's learned
his own phone number or address,
a five-year-old can carry
like a few small stones
the Latin tonnage of those names,
the prefixes and preferences
for leaf or meat.

My son recites the syllables
I stumble over now,
sets up figures as I did
years ago in his prehistory.
Here is the green ski slope
of a brontosaur's back,
there a triceratops in full
gladiator gear. From the arm
of a chair a pterodactyl
surveys the dark primeval carpet.

Each has disappeared from time
to time, excavated finally
from beneath a cabinet
or the sofa cushions, only
to be buried again among its kind
in the deep toy chest,
the closed lid snug as earth.
The next time they're brought out
to roam the living room
another bone's been found

somewhere, a tooth or fragment
of an eggshell dusted off,
brushing away some long-held notion
about their life-span
or intelligence, warm blood
or cold. On the floor
they face off as if debating
the latest find, what part
of which one of them
has been discovered this time.

Or else they stand abreast
in one long row, side
by scaly side, waiting to fall
like dominoes, my son's
tossed tennis ball a neon yellow
asteroid, his shadow a dark cloud
when he stands, his fervor for them
cooling so slowly he can't feel it—
the speed of glaciers, maybe,
how one age slides into the next.

Source: Poetry (September 2001).

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This poem originally appeared in the September 2001 issue of Poetry magazine

September 2001

Biography

James Scruton is the chair of the Humanities Division at Bethel College in McKenzie, Tennessee, where he teaches poetry and British literature. His poems have appeared in Mid-American Poetry ReviewEkphrasis, and Yankee, among other literary journals. 

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Poems by James Scruton

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Youth, Nature, Time & Brevity, Coming of Age, Animals, Parenthood

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Poetic Terms Imagery, Ode, Metaphor

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