Archaeology: A Late Lecture

by Scott Cairns


Debris and caked accretion keep
the past interred, until one takes
the spade, and makes a start to find
amid the several strata some
encouragement, some clue to how
we’ve come to be, have come to be
—belatedly—thus.  As we are
at present also somewhat caked
in varying degrees of grit,
we find with every shovelful
of artifact a mirror now
evincing just how far we have
not come.  Every decade falls,
and, therefore, yet, it falls to each
and every one of us to grip
the spade, to lean into the dig.




Scott Cairns is Curators’ Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Missouri and directs the low-residency MFA program at Seattle Pacific University. His most recent collections are Idiot Psalms (2014) and Slow Pilgrim (2015). His spiritual memoir, Short Trip to the Edge, was reprinted in 2016.