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Dig, a poem by Jo Barbara Taylor

by Jo Barbara Taylor
     Cathédrale Sainte-Bénogne

Outside the simple sacred church, an open pit.
My first archaeological dig.
July sun throws shadow deep in the hole.
Diggers in khaki shorts and dungarees
pick, sift, brush in consecrated dirt
with tiny tools like children ply to shape
a sandcastle on shore. They squat, sit, kneel,
pick, sift, brush, and wash. Each exposed layer,
down, down to 500 A.D. visible
as circles on a stump, tells the story
of basilica, abbey, cathedral
in dust, shards of pottery, in bones.

The sweet smell of sautéed onion floats
from a window across the street, anoints the pit.
When evening shadow darkens the pit
and the aroma of butter and onion
reaches the sixth century,
the pickers and sifters climb the scaffold,
pass each layer of the plot, all the while
adding a new chapter.
Now I am a character in the story,
doing the same.

Jo Barbara Taylor lives in North Carolina, but is an Indiana farm girl at heart. Her poems and academic writing have appeared in journals, magazines, anthologies and online. How to Come and Go (Chatter House Press 2016) is her fourth book. She leads poetry-writing workshops through Duke Continuing Education, chairs the workshop committee for the North Carolina Poetry Society, and coordinates a poetry reading series for a Raleigh independent bookstore.