Photo collage illustration: An archaeologist uses a paintbrush to excavate a purplish human heart from brown dirt and rocks. Original photo by Mariana Rusanovschi/; photo editing by Emerald staff.

POETRY: Excavation

by Jena Lopez

The Valley of Kings was 
Robbed blind until all the accessible tombs
Were as empty as Christ’s tomb on Easter. 
The rest were forgotten like an unrisen Christ. 

Thousands of years later and 
Miles away in the city of Amazon,
A woman sits in her therapist’s office.
She claims ignorance of her condition. 

She sits quietly with hands folded in her lap
You hurt, the therapist says, What can I do to help you? 
I don’t know she says, I don’t know
What is your hurt? 

Yet she has  braved the tortuous path
Of insurance in America 
Because she must so she can live
But is frozen in fear. 

I’m sad. I don’t know why. 
I’m worried. I don’t know why. 
My parents are divorced. 
She will say no more. 

Of course, she knows but 
The answer is buried deep inside
Hidden as the tomb of Tutankhamun 
And she is no Howard Carter.  

The weeks continue.
Heart, mind, body, spirit 
Are searched. 
Nothing is found.

The therapist can only offer the tools:
(Brush, shovel, pick, trowel, buckets, bulldozer) 
And the skills for her excavation
(Dig, scrape, pull, hold, brush). 

Brushing only
On the sand; she is not willing to excavate 
The ancient civilization inside her that
Holds the answers she seeks.

The hidden tombs are hardest to find
Grave robbers have already found the easiest 
Ones but only Tutankhamun’s hold the true secrets 
To the secret and lost history of pain. 

Picking up the shovel is daunting and scary because 
What if she excavates the tomb and
Finds nothing to explain
All the hurt. 

Jena Lopez is a behavioral health social worker based in Seattle.

📸 Featured Image: Original photo by Mariana Rusanovschi/; photo editing by Emerald staff.

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