I press my brow to cold glass –
two women, head to head:
your face tilts like a ship’s prow
challenging the wind,
morning sky over the North Sea
in your salt-washed cheeks
and eager, blue-green eyes.
Your hair falls like mine
from a centre parting, though holds
no trace of grey in its peat brown sweep.
Five thousand years between us, and yet
not a moment, it seems – recognition
like that spark you’d know how to strike
from stone. Thought tugs at your mouth’s harbour,
a half-smile about to slip its mooring into laughter.
Your skull lies beside you, mute echo,
shell-white in spotlit stillness – every curve
and crevice mapped by expert minds:
your mask their exquisite calculation,
more real to me than any excavated bone.
Did you sleep, wake, love and weep
in the dark air of honeycomb chambers
built by shores I’ve only glimpsed
from plane and car – my stay too short
and anyway, my timing out of season?
I want to know you, unknown woman,
walk with you the cliffs at Silwick,
tread the paths of Scalloway, hear
your language beat the air again
with skua, scart and arctic tern,
learn your life, those days that stretched
behind your step, and (though you couldn’t guess
their end would come too soon) gave you
such a fearless gaze of hope.