At Coldrum Long Barrow
A slope below a wooded hill on the North Downs
with a bitter wind rising out of the east. It is so
small a mound, after all. The standing stones
have mostly fallen or been taken, but the stone
doorway is still as it was built. Beneath us,
under the hill, their bones lie: “strongly made,
with long heads, showing a family resemblance,
perhaps a noble family”. (Class evident even here.)
The bodies of the dead were first placed on a shelf,
then carefully cleaned and gathered into an ossuary.
More than three thousand years ago
they were laid here, the ancient ones.
So little remains of everything they knew.
I greet them in a foreign tongue, invoking
no gods but those of the mountain above us
and the river below. “Ki nga tipuna, ki nga mate,
haere ki tena tua o te arai.” And then we whakanoa
ourselves with a little water, to leave things as they belong.