ONE POEM – Sofia Lyall

Seahenge by John Sayer, The Cereologist


Emerging from the mud of the Fen
in a place without trees or plants or living beings
I find the roots of an oak (dead, upturned, twisted)
and am left more disoriented than before.
They interrupt the silence, the fenland nothingness
where only wetness envelopes the land 
whose lonely companions are the sea and the wind. 
Now they have called in the archeologists to provide us 
the answers, dispel the mystery and tell us the facts.
They start to dig in tune with the tide (and at its mercy),
hauling their instruments and their equipment to excavate 
the oak from the silt that has gathered over time: 
a millimetre a year for four thousand years equals 
four metres of mud to keep the roots preserved. 
All the while, I can’t stop myself from asking: 
and what is the story behind this tree…?
In my mind I try to give the oak a life
and bear witness to its existence four millennia ago:
            a seed a sapling a green oak felled
           and displaced from its neighbours, dead 
            and dragged across the Fen
And then?
            a body a burial a ceremony by water
            and there are birds who feast 
            and a human who departs 
And then…? 
            I lament because I cannot know. Only: 
            the mud below and the sky above — 
            the Fenland’s eternal coffin. 

Seahenge is the name given to a timber circle discovered in 1998 on a beach in North Norfolk. Archeologists have dated the circle to 2049 BC and believe it was used for the ritual process of excarnation, whereby the body is left for animals before burial.

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