By Rosemary Dobson
After death fire must consume
hair, toenails, large bones and small
and then nothing can be told at all.
These bones, with pollen analysis
of their strata, provide a limited history;
for carbon-dating, deduction and analogy
do not reveal the dark side of the mind
nor betray the heart’s deviousness,
the body’s wilfulness,
the throbbing pules, the fever,
divided longing, madness.
Down, down through the abyss
stratifications can be plotted
and set out on graph paper.
The following is deduced from existing data
and froth flotation of the surrounding
clay-bed: She was a young woman, gracile,
delicate. Died by water. Was vulnerable
and wounded—by love (but that’s hypothesis)—
and carried with her to death such weedy trophies
as willow, nettles, crow-flowers and daises.