I dig digging

Poet Matt Black was inspired by the Athersley students to create this archaeology poem. Thank you Matt!
 
As the trowel works down
through layers
I love the pleasure
of sifting through the crumbly soil
so carefully –
actually, you don’t really dig,
you scrape, so you don’t miss, or damage,
the fragile treasure.
Look, is that a piece of glinting silver?
 
I dig digging.
That old penny, where did it come from?
Who did it belong to?
Who once spent it on liquorice, or beer,
at the end of a hard day in the woods,
or down the pit, or by the fire?
That person stood breathing,
laughing, perspiring, right here.
 
I dig digging
near the school,
where my grandfather dug before –
I played him once at pool,
his hands were weathered and wrinkly
as he showed me how to hit the ball.
Underneath his fingernails
this very soil.
 
I dig digging,
hunting, and sieving, and finding, and shouting,
O my God, look what I’ve found,
a skull, like an empty cave.
Though once, its mouth was full
of mashed potato and gravy –
maybe.
Shaking this riddle,
this moonslip of bone in my palm,
working out the story.