On The Recent Excavations At Norwich
by David Barber
“Here they lived
This baked clay was used for building;
you see it faintly marked by memory.
The finds we have unearthed confirm
it was a dwelling, though we cannot say
if they were happy here or not.
This is a fragment of a bottle
fashioned lovingly from glass, lake-green
and in a style that helps us date the site.
It held residues of vines, extinct now
but in those days drunk to celebrate
the solstice, angels, ignorance or hope.
As with other sites, evidence
their houses were refashioned many times,
not contented with their goods or with their lives.
Traces of copper worming through the walls
are thought to be a charm to ward off
disillusionment. This we understand.
A broken blade, though much
bears letters stamped in ancient script,
STAINLESS, with its notions of purity
and innocence. ST was shorthand for Saint.
Their cult spoke constantly of sacrifice
and blood. An object of ritual perhaps.
This silvered ghost they called
Chance preserved a glimpse of one of them,
though whether it is the sea, the smiling
woman or their coincidence it honours
we do not know. You wonder if she loved
or was loved. Their lives have this effect,
their brief, crowded lives.
Many of us wept
at the frail bubbles of glass, totems which
they hung in each room, not trusting the dark;
as if some words or the weight of a thing
in our hand could make sense of a life or
the hour and lost places of its passing.”
© 2011 David Barber
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