I wrote this poem while excavating at the Ness of Brodgar, a Neolithic site located in the northernmost part of Scotland. My struggle with depression eventually took me away from the field school, so I had some time to explore some of the countryside.
The Orkney Islands are hauntingly beautiful, but they’re bleak. Livestock and 40 knot winds have scoured its features bare, leaving only grass and stony beach behind. When you travel across them, you feel like you’re traversing a primordial, half-formed world.
Megalithic structures dot the landscape, most of them a type of tomb called a dolmen. There are so many of them in the Orkney Islands, in fact, that the islands have been nicknamed the “Egypt of the North.”
As I entered these tombs and moved through them, I imagined laborers toiling under the shrieking winds. I imagined them tromping through blasted valleys to pull these stone structures together.
But I also realized that time has robbed them.
for life is long and living short.
not its passing.
huddle beneath a frenzied sky.
and not their passing.
Here we built, but did we kiss?
is buried with his teeth.
Life is long and living short.
Life rolls and halts and gathers moss.
The mind will pass, our body after,
and the word before the stone.
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