The Young Anthropologist

i found a small child digging for mummies
in a sandbox in her backyard, in the gully
behind the neighbor’s house. she found artifacts
with her brother, bits of handcarts and rusted
tools from another generation. they weren’t quite
ancient enough, but were brought home anyway.

when no one was looking, she’d open up the yellow-framed
magazine of exploration and adventure and discovery, a
geography of humanity and nature and new ways of knowing.
secretly, she searched for photographs of unearthed things––things that had
been buried in the depths of the earth, decomposed to a moment, this moment.
flesh and hair and materials still intact with bones.

Secretly turning page after new-smelling magazine page because
death and the dying and the once-human remains were the reality
no one spoke about––she was drawn to the secret things,
the hidden things––the things that must be found and seen
and kept holy because even the dead are beautiful.

mummies. she sensed the ritual, the seeking, the old ways––
ways that were sometimes terrifying and horrific and unspeakable.
what did you really uncover when you uncovered a body?

she too was decomposing. growing, but
decomposing. she too would end up beneath the surface,
real and dead and giving up her essence to more life.
this was not scary, but magnetic. inevitable.
life and death would come to her again and again.
this is the only discovery. day after day:

life becomes
death becomes life.