Woman at Skara Brae
for Dorine Bowman Handy
Archaeologists date the village, discovered in the Orkneys, to around 3100 BC.
(“Before Stonehenge,” National Geographic, August 2014)
See my mother’s ancestress on the ness;
she is that short woman of sturdy build,
speaking to the sky before it pitches black.
She holds a bone she’s been puzzling over–
somehow there’s a way to shape it to a tool
for scraping silver discs from fish.
With woman’s wit, she oversees construction
of her house, setting walls thick
to soften the sea roar,
laying a stone hearth for warmth,
carving shelves for storing cups, and
elevating beds for protection from chill.
For the village, she designs tombs,
aligning doors to capture the waning sun
on winter solstice eve, measures spans
between the Stenness Stones,
does not spend much time in prayer.
She is more in obeisance to sea mists
and rain that water the grain and keep grass
green for the flocks.
The darkness disturbs her, the early bedtimes,
for she cannot easily sleep
going over in her mind
the work of tomorrows.
This Orcadian woman, wide-hipped,
narrow-pelvised, bears few children,
but those born of her bloodline, like me,
carry the seed of seeking.