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Saudamini Siegrist

ARCHEOLOGIST AT WORK

I set out with an iron pick to trace
on the earth surface, as we once traced
on a turntable with a diamond head
needle, the spiral groove, an act of love.
Recorded down through the ages,
carved into rock, trailed off in columns
of smoke, handed down in hieroglyphs,
sun-dried brick, a relic, an ink mark
to remember, to blot out the past.
Blind spot, the archeologist studies,
blind spot history buries. I dig up
dreamed-up bodies of the dead,
mortal remains, deposited, laid to rest,
smoldering between the earth crust
and its molten core. There is no escaping
the final fire at the center of what
we are, a flickering matchstick, struck
awake, a flash of sulphur, small spitfire,
flame to warm the fragile, exhausted,
excavated vessel of modern civilization,
traced back, the nerve center
of a lost origin. The body is a porthole
love passed through and left behind,
an unprotected timepiece measuring
the sift of desert sands, clockwork
carbon-dated bone china chip,
pried by bare hands from a seam
in the strata of a rock wall, yielded up,
breastplate or shoulder blade or fractured
hip. I live to retrieve that treasure.
Across the continent, I track the footprint,
fossil imprint, the brand of a branding iron,
the curve of a spine cradled
and fused into stone, frozen fern
of a backbone, opened fist, let go, 
the being still carrying in that last breath
a birthmark of the cell wall, its human
body embryo, breast-fed, earth bud,
grown, loved, grieved over, long-ago
dead, but clutching in the emptied
form an essence of having been alive,
burned into memory, to preserve
the body in its thirst for love:
I empty of content the common grave.


INHERITANCE

The apron is handed down, three generations,
three kitchens wallpapered, one covering the other,
with weather vanes and hens and wagon
trains in daylight, faded onto the walls through curtains
of printed broadcloth. The apron is bulletproof.
You incarnate because of it, in order to wear it,
to remember the labor of midwives and housewives,
to claim your share of the many-bodied apron
finger-painted in chokecherry, acid yellow lemon grated
and orange peel, delicate as the stains on the shell
of a wren’s egg, hatched, the dried honey,
streaked wax paper, rainwater and brown,
spoiled stew meat, swatted fly, the smear of hectic
dreams, the unleavened stain, yeast
and sourdough, tea leaf and coffee bean grind,
the waste of skin and seed, discarded bone
and rind and core in a compost heap,
on the kitchen floor, where you swear—by the apron,
the kitchen, the curse—that you will disinherit this.


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