We surged into the windowless basement
each day before the sun rose, like souls
into hell, armed with glinting mattocks,
trowels, shovels, steel toe cap boots.
Under the glow of fluorescent lights we uncovered
pits of bones. Everyone harvesting from the earth
each day their quota of two skeletons.
All winter we dealt in death, took apart bodies
like jigsaw puzzles, became intimate with their elements.
We were pale creatures, strange bats, shadows
haunting our weary eyes, cave dwellers, we craved the light.
Leaving after the sun went down each night, we rode
the tube accompanied by crowds of skeletons in suits
clutching briefcases, making their way home.
(Based on my experience of working on the medieval burials at Spitalfields Cemetery, London, 2000.)
Lucy Whitehead’s poetry has been published in Amethyst Review, Anti-Heroin Chic, Barren Magazine, Black Bough Poetry, Broken Spine Artist Collective, Burning House Press, Collective Unrest, Electric Moon Magazine, Ghost City Review, Mookychick Magazine, 3 Moon Magazine, Neon Mariposa Magazine, Parentheses Journal, Pink Plastic House, Pussy Magic, Re-side, and Twist in Time Literary Magazine. She has a BA (Hons) in Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge, and an MA in History of Art and Archaeology, SOAS University of London. She lives by the sea with her husband and cat. You can find her on Twitter @blueirispoetry.