18th CENTURY REMAINS
A wooded ridge a mile from Monticello.
A pit cut deeper than the plough-line.
Archaeologists unearthed this site by scanning
plantation land mapped field
for roughage, ash, the smear of human dwelling.
We stood amid blown cypresses.
Inheritors of absences, we peered
into the 10 by 12 foot ledge
shifting some to see the unearthed shards:
two pipe stems, seeds, three greening buttons.
The centuries-old hearthstones were still charred,
as if the fire was only lately gone.
“Did they collect these buttons to adorn?” But no one knew.
“Did they trade them, use them for barter?”
How light, each delicate pipe stem,
the something someone smoked at last
against the sill-log wall that did for home,
a place where someone else collected
wedges of cast-off British willowware.
Between vines, a tenuous cocoon.
The grassy berm that was a road.
A swaying clue,
faint as relief at finding something left
of lives held here that now vanish off
like blue smoke plumes I suddenly imagined--
which were not, will not, cannot be enough.