Volume 10, Number 11—November 2004
The Woman at the Dig1
Tired from running a combine
all day through acres of wheat,
alone in front of the TV, I pay
attention because the show’s about
scientists digging up an ancient site.
I have no special interest in bones,
pottery, spearheads, or prehistoric
garbage dumps, and I always look past
the man describing animal migrations,
burial rites, or building design and try
to catch a glimpse of the women
working at the site − one of them
might be wearing cut-off jeans
and a halter top, clearing a patch
of ground with a trowel or brush.
These women are all experts.
You can tell by the way they look
at a bone chip or a pottery shard
they understand worlds about
the person who left it. Sifting soil,
they show more grace than contestants
in a Miss Universe pageant.
Years from now, when these farms
are ancient history, an expedition
with such a woman might come along.
I could drop something for her to find,
a pocketknife, a brass overalls button.
If only she could discover my bones.
My eyes would be long gone,
But I can see her form coming into focus
above me as she gently sweeps aside
the last particles of dust − her knee, thigh,
hip, shoulders, and finally, set off by sky
and spikes of sunlight, her face − a woman
who recognizes what she’s found.
Leo Dangel (b. 1941)
1From The Crow on the Golden Arches, Spoon River Poetry Press, 2004. Reprinted with permission.