The impact at the end of the Cretaceous Period, the so-called
K-T boundary, exterminated 75 percent of life on Earth.

— Robert Sanders, ‘Fossils Document the Hour After
the Meteor Hit’ (Portside, March 29, 2019).

Strange rain of molten glass,
asteroid rock blown up, sky-high –
Primordial fish hurled by the sea-quake
onto sand once breathed, through gills,
the shining drops that rained down, burning,
even after they lay still.

Shocked quartz & shattered shark teeth;
proto-mammals petrified;
foot-long feathers; fallen tektites
in the filaments of gills;
a terrible lizard’s three-horned carcass –
proof of impact, ecocide.

Stellar traveler pulverized
to rock-dust & iridium,
you made oceans rise & sway,
called acid rain & darkness down,
sprayed rubble, ash & blast debris
into the firestorm of the sky.

Who’ll recognize the turning of
one era to the next? Not
the living things wiped out in
mass extinctions of the past,
nor we who, sifting relics,
monitor apocalypse.

In the gleaming core of amber,
hangs an insect caught in flight –
In the post-Cretaceous layer,
ferns, resurgent, fought & thrived.
Bones like pages in a journal,
fossilized, give up their light.

Ned Balbo’s newest books are 3 Nights of the Perseids (winner of the Richard Wilbur Award) and The Cylburn Touch-Me-Nots (Criterion Books), both published in 2019. His third book, The Trials of Edgar Poe and Other Poems, received the 2012 Poets’ Prize and the Donald Justice Prize.