York in Poetry: On examining each clod of soil from a cemetery trench

Posted on 24 November 2012 | Audio, Poem

Digging my fingers
into the clumpy loam,
I squeeze each lump
for scraps of us
shards of bone
and occasionally larger elements
that identify
age, sex, body size.

I have crumpled so many clayey clods
into my fist,
a bump grows on the back of my hand,
purplishly swelling off the ridge
that is my own
fourth metacarpal—

it rises sorely each day,
is gone by next morning,
re-appears by noon.

What does this labor
leave upon me,
what roughened blemish
will be held up to sunlight and squinted at
200, 300 years from now,
when MY grave inconveniently
blocks progress;
when my splinter shards are troweled through,
on the way to the bucket
on the way to the slop heap
missing out only the tiniest bits of me…..

I grip dried clay that,
exposed to late summer sun
has hardened into cheap pottery,
expose another bone,
add some puzzling pathology to my own right hand

and dare them,
to guess.

- Rose Drew