"She lives the poetry she cannot write" – Wilde
What will survive of us, in fact, is this:
a bird-bone pipe stem dropped like fag ends in a gutter,
rusted hobnails clumping into reddened truffles,
sherds of cookware like a broken Easter egg,
a soil-wet tile with footprints from a Roman dog.
Time, the old erratic editor, removes all abstracts
but excises verbs as well; occasionally leaves a name
but mostly just the ands and thes, so what remains
is coded mud. The rule for codebreakers is patience;
record what you can see, and not what you expect.
The digging woman scrapes, deciphers, cleans;
pulls back a flat blade over charcoal and says home;
chips at a frozen flow of slag, pronounces work;
planes off dark silt and says disease, desertion;
meets tile-sparked soot and says fire, panic, rape.
Easy to return the verb, complete the phrase
and so curate a gallery of empty frames.
Only absent are the subjects who you want to speak to:
not expecting that they’d tell you great historic truths
but just because you want to hear their voices.