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May 27, 2012
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I waited in a tiny house without a light or door,
That each progressing day was slightly smaller than before,
Until I felt the sudden urge to break and struggle free.
I came into the world in only natal feathers dressed,
Among my likewise siblings in an interwoven nest,
Atop a shrub amid a land surrounded by the sea.

Each day my father came to us with smaller lives to eat,
As slowly I grew larger and my feathers more complete.
Along my longest finger formed a broad and glossy wing.
With wings to press me forward I could climb an upright wall,
And now the nest where I had dwelt was also strangely small,
And I could not ignore the larger island's beckoning.

My wings had grown sufficient to support my weight in air,
And prey could now be chased and won without my father's care.
Observing my lagoon-encircled kingdom from above,
Another hunger came to me beyond the quest for food,
To recreate on my behalf my natal nest and brood,
And prove to a companion my deserving of her love.

For every female sought a male with finest wings and flight,
And through the simple wish for one most pleasing to her sight,
Ensured that every pairing was with genes that could excel.
By many years of romance would my offspring rule the air,
Although I could not live to see the fruit it all would bear,
The time was no concern to me, for I have waited well.

---

My task was to provide my young what I had once been fed,
No matter through what peril or expanse my journey led,
Until a fearsome tempest that my wings could not surmount.
With feathers wet amid the waves, I lacked the hope of flight,
And swimming strength was spent before the shore had entered sight.
It was the ending of my life, but not of my account.

This was no ordinary tide where I had flown my last,
Where bodies are recycled and their elements recast.
I floated through an upper veil of life, then sank below.
Beneath the deepest waters lay a realm devoid of time,
Where creatures found their rest atop a bed of softest lime,
And blanketed in sediment like gently falling snow.

The world above my dreamless rest did not remain the same,
And those who died were soon replaced as other orders came,
Although my own remained among the few who would prevail.
In great advance across the world, they gave me little thought,
Their precursor of finger-claws and carpals now forgot,
In frozen stone with wings outspread, without a head and tail.

Another kind of creature that across the planet ranged
Soon measured time in numbers, and its land in ways that changed,
As things they knew as empires or kingdoms rose and fell.
They prized the stone around me for an etching or a floor,
As I awaited one who knew what history it bore,
The time was no concern to me, for I have waited well.

---

In nineteen fifty-six I was allowed a second birth,
By one who thought a crayfish was my unimportant worth,
Until he came to understand the prize he had in me.
A cherished place he gave me in the house of ancient stone,
Though only with the promise that I must remain his own,
For one found every hundred years must not be given free.

I stood in famous view among the life of long ago,
Until my master's hopes endured an unexpected blow:
Another of my kind was found, with pristine plume and bone.
No longer unsurpassed I was, in master's sad appraise.
No more would he present me to the world's capricious gaze;
In aging hands would I remain, observed by him alone.

As time grew long and age grew frail, in solitude we shared,
And measurements were changed again by broken lands repaired,
My master knew a final place where he and I must go.
A one found every hundred years he could not give away,
But notions of such grandeur had descended to decay,
And preservation was a place that none but he could know.

I learned of master's death upon a snowy winter day.
I am his greatest legacy, though in the strangest way,
For with him died the knowledge of what fortune I befell.
My home is now no darker than my home in stone or sea,
And ages need not pass before I hatch from secrecy.
The time is no concern to me, for I am waiting well.
This poem tells the story of the Maxberg Specimen of Archaeopteryx, the most mysterious of all fossils of this animal. Discovered in 1956, it was the first specimen of Archaeopteryx to be discovered after the famous Berlin specimen found in 1876. Its owner, Eduard Opitsch, considered it too valuable to give away and couldn't agree on a price to sell it, although he allowed it to be studied by paleontologists and displayed in a museum until 1974. The announcement of the much-better preserved Eichstätt specimen in 1973 seemed to have an embittering effect on Opitsch, and the following year he demanded his fossil back from the museum, and kept it at his house in Pappenheim from that point onward. For the last decade or so of his life, he refused to let anyone else see the fossil at all.

When Opitsch died at the age of 91 in February 1991, the Maxberg specimen wasn't found anywhere in his house, or any other possible place he might have left it. To this day, nobody knows what happened to it. Most paleontologists think it still exists somewhere, but it may be a long time before anyone sees it again.

I'd been intending to write something about the Maxberg Specimen for a long time, and was originally intending for it to be a comic. I've recently been looking into possibly getting a collection of my poetry published somewhere, though, and I think a poem has a better chance of eventually being published than a comic does. This poem also replaces Ned the Creationist as the longest poem I've written. Even though Ned the Creationist always been one of my most popular poems, I think think this poem is better than that one both thematically and technically, and is more deserving of the length distinction.

Preview image is a creative commons image by H. Raab.
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Daily Deviation

Given 2012-06-03
The Maxberg Archaeopteryx by ~Agahnim ( Suggested by EWilloughby and Featured by thorns )
:iconwhiksihr:
Whiksihr Featured By Owner Jan 17, 2013
Very nice
Reply
:iconeco727:
Eco727 Featured By Owner Oct 9, 2012  Student Traditional Artist
Amazing story, too
Reply
:iconeco727:
Eco727 Featured By Owner Oct 9, 2012  Student Traditional Artist
One of the best poems I've ever read
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:iconzireael07:
Zireael07 Featured By Owner Jun 24, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
This is awesome!!!
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:iconforgotemme:
Forgotemme Featured By Owner Jun 4, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Goddd,the trauma I recall from having to write a 80 page paper about the Archaeopteryx fossils =.=
This is really awesome though, too bad you wrote it after I handed it in. :')
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:icontricksterbluejay:
TricksterBlueJay Featured By Owner Jun 3, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
Such a touching poem! I didn't know the story behind the Maxberg specimen of Archaeopteryx, it's kind of a shock for me to learn that it is missing.

Hope you can get your poems published, you're a very talented writer.
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:iconjexxerom:
jexxerom Featured By Owner Jun 3, 2012  Student Traditional Artist
Beautiful I can't believe it but it made me cry....
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:iconchsehd41:
chsehd41 Featured By Owner Jun 3, 2012
A great piece, and well worthy of being included in deviations Nice style, too.
Reply
:icondaffodille:
DaffoDille Featured By Owner Jun 3, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
This is one sweet poem. I never read text deviations, but this one really grabbed my attention. I hope you get it published!
Reply
:iconnonier:
NonieR Featured By Owner Jun 3, 2012
Being a hopeless grammarian, I gotta say it would be "what fortune me befell," but I can see how that would confuse a lot of readers too.

Nitpicking aside, this is amazing!

--Nonie
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