Charles Patrick Norman was awarded Third Place in Poetry in the 2015 Prison Writing Contest.

Years before we moved into the little white house
on the hill a road construction crew sliced off
the hillside edge to make way for the highway
as easily as Mama cut a loaf of sourdough bread.
Rains washed down the hillside and flowed into
a drainage ditch beside the road, revealing layers
of soil, sand, clay and limestone rock that provided
endless hours of fascination for three little boys.

Standing back and taking in the colored layers before me,
digging into interesting hues with a teaspoon, I uncovered
a broken chipped flint arrowhead crafted by
some hunter forgotten and long-dead, transporting me back
to a prehistoric Florida wilderness untamed by the
white man’s machinery, imagined hunting with the Creek
ghosts for deer and squirrel, leaving behind no evidence
of their passing except for that sharpened arrow tip.

Another day I dug into a deeper orange clay and
found fragments of petrified wood lying where the
tree fell onto the forest floor eons before men came.
Then came ancient seashells embedded in a
mysterious layer of sand that tasted salt on my
tongue, tiny white periwinkles, clams and scallops
still perfect in their symmetry, sleeping
next to a darkened, stained shark’s tooth I saved.

Our miniature Grand Canyon never failed
to reveal hidden treasures to my digging,
mementos I saved in a cigar box with old coins.
One day as I silently pondered my life and events
from childhood, digging deeply for lost memories,
I realized that my life was like that hillside, composed
of layer upon layer of sedimentary experiences
waiting for me to scrape away the sand with my spoon.