He Sees the Infant Skeleton
I stopped and stared
at the two American students,
kneeling in the priory chancel,
absorbed in the task, silence essential.
Their wooden skewers loosened packed earth,
their brushes reverently scratched soil
from around a skull
as they uncovered the skeleton.
Stains marked the nails
of his or her small coffin.
I measured by eye,
guessed the age at less than one,
wondered what grief-stricken couple
ensured a burial in the holiest place
for their untimely corpse.
I asked nothing, scared of disturbing
their concentration but each, I’m sure,
chose a Christian name for the dead one.
It was gone the next day,
taken in a plastic bag for interrogation,
the answers to be noted
in an academic publication
adding to the sum of our knowledge
of burial, belief
and the uncertainties of childhood.
Only the name will escape them.
I called him Christopher.