Six Feet Under

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Anthony Thwaite

“THE BARROWIn this high field strewn with stones

I walk by a green mound,

Its edges sheared by the plough.

Crumbs of animal bone

Lie smashed and scattered round

Under the clover leaves

And slivers of flint seem to grow

Like white leaves among green.

In the wind, the chestnut heaves

Where a man’s grave has been.

Whatever the barrow held
Once, has been taken away:
A hollow of nettles and dock
Lies at the centre, filled
With rain from a sky so grey
It reflects nothing at all.
I poke in the crumbled rock
For something they left behind
But after that funeral
There is nothing at all to find.

On the map in front of me
The gothic letters pick out
Dozens of tombs like this,
Breached, plundered, left empty,
No fragments littered about
Of a dead and buried race
In the margins of histories.
No fragments: these splintered bones
Construct no human face,
These stones are simply stones.

In museums their urns lie
Behind glass, and their shaped flints
Are labelled like butterflies.
All that they did was die,
And all that has happened since
Means nothing to this place.
Above long clouds, the skies
Turn to a brilliant red
And show in the water’s face
One living, and not these dead.”

— Anthony Thwaite, from The Owl In The Tree”

 

Six Feet Under

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