The Tell, by William Conelly
Down cantilevered stairs, wood railings led
hand over sliding hand through an exhibit
archaeologists designed, each step six
lifetimes further through the studied dross
of culture—refuse mixed with shard and bone,
compacted under flint-like floors of ash.
Our passage ended thirty-odd feet down.
As through lit windows in an empty well,
pale earthenware—pieced whole again—displayed
some bronze age potter’s narrative of war
among the greening blades, an empty hilt
and silver inlaid sword, some funeral coins.
Lorded by spears, their doom become a trope,
stick ranks of shadow men marched to endure
a slaughter—charged, impaled, death’s blackened
drapery flung across the fell of corpses--
all their gutted reek to earth in sodden
layers at the summoning of flies.
Upstairs, outside, flax bloomed. The women who
survived enslaved to foreign looms had known
these very flowers, blue and persistent as
the common soul. Some bone below was mine.
I could have marked it, but there was no point,
no scope, no story but the lapse of time.
William Conelly: "I took both Bachelor's and Master's Degrees in English under Edgar Bowers at UC Santa Barbara. Unrelated research and writing work followed, before I returned to academia in 2000. Since then, I've served in both the US and the UK as an associate professor, tutor and seminar leader in English studies. With dual citizenship, I now reside primarily in the West Midlands town of Warwick. In 2015 the Able Muse published an illustrated mix of my verse dating back four decades; it's titled Uncontested Grounds and may be reviewed at their website or via Amazon."
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