Recent Excavations in Amerika

This is where they lived, memories of their dwellings 
marked by baked brick in an outline of Euclid. 
Whether they were happy here we cannot say.

Traces of copper worming through the walls; thought
to be a charm to ward off disillusionment. 
This we understand. Some fragments of vessels 

fashioned lovingly from glass the colour of rain, 
stained with a residue of vines, in those days 
drunk as proof of success. Now extinct.

A broken blade with lettering in ancient script:
STAINLESS had notions of purity and innocence; 
ST was shorthand for Saint. Their cult spoke endlessly 

of sacrifice and blood. Object of ritual.
This silvered ghost they called a photograph,
though whether it is the ocean, 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 they hung 
in every room, not trusting the dark. We believed 

that words, or the weight of a thing in our hands 
would be enough to make sense of these people, 
and the hour and lost places of their passing. 

David Barber