27 JANUARY 2001, Page 49

Beneath the Surface

First an aerial photo. This might be the site. Then a JCB, clanking, heaps topsoil and stone. Spadework and sieving bring artefacts up to the light.

Like lucky phrases, pottery shards and carved bone. From the cesspit's recesses a plentiful yield.

Pieced from fragments the past begins to be known.

From the steel scaffold a view of what was concealed. The camera's dispassionate eye probes and then prints. Foundations laid and forgotten now stand revealed.

Tokens and keys emerge to give whispers and hints. Buried conduits convey lost images once more bright. Poems are excavations, their sources hidden long since.

Peter Way