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Going down, by Britta Benson

Today I was working in Whithorn in Dumfries & Galloway, a site of archaeological importance. Pretty much all of Scotland is of archaeological importance. As I watched the children play on the historic site, I was thinking of all the stones and bones lying underneath. I observed a chicken, completely unimpressed by the importance of the site, the way chicken all over the world and throughout history have just been getting on with life, picking grain. Believe it or not, that chicken was the start of my poem.

Going down

Children run and play

in polyester princess dresses

or knight pyjamas,

foam sword in hand.

Small, bare feet drum

the unmistakable beat

of young life into ancient soil.

The grass lies flat,


ueber chilled,

same old, same old,

this will pass.

Tomorrow, we’ll rise,

one blade says to another.

We dance on bones, broken bowls,

the stones that were homes,

a priory, battlefield, settlement,

nobody reads all these signs,

they’re just here for the birds

to sit and rest, observe the scene.

Each generation, time, a layer

in the settlement of history.

Now we’re on top,

enjoy, but don’t be fooled.

We’re all going down

and eventually

we’ll provide new space

for small bare feet

to invent life

all over again.


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