Nebra Sky Disc

One place, or two, to start: beauty and use.
Is the arc at the edge a bow, a boat for some god,
aurora, comet? Its old crescent pursues

a moon in the middle, coated in clods
of dirt stuck to the green burnish of bronze.
This verdigris, intended or accident, nonetheless nods

to the various manners of time as it goes.
The disc circles a smaller sun within; the cluster
of dots looks like the yearly flare caused

by flocks of stars veering closer, then farther:
night grows and shrinks. And though apparently fickle,
it was the hoped-for rule of the artifact’s artist

that such forces recur. When I was little,
the disc wasn’t included in our set of books
about the ancient world, covers chipping and brittle.

It was lost to me. And so instead I looked
most days at the Trundholm sun chariot, sculpture
as calendar, and imagined the horse as it shook

pliant and running; the wheels of the structure
might turn any minute, as a still display
can shatter into movements as it fractures.

We make this happen. The chariot’s sway
was found by itself, wheels still, in the peat,
and indeed I spent a long time on the gray

faces of the bog-buried, sacrificial dead—the neat
replication of the living turned wrong, and their hair
brown or red, with slight curls knotted in plaits

much as mine would be. Or the strange care
of the objects arranged, the comb and rope.
The browser, these days, is too quick; none of my air

can come back as a page turns. It’s all in the scope:
too easy to find the face of the Huldremose Woman,
click the picture, get another, zoom to the slope

of the open mouth and horrified gums I’ve summoned,
the oblique ridges that will become our eyes,
pan down to the jagged end of the human,

the humerus exposed (it broke either as she died
or in our digging, and the hand rests to the side, alone),
back to the paper skin pooled to comprise

her chest and neck, her earlobes, another bone,
another angle, her shoulders in the modern room
covered by new woven wool, quite like her own,

her mouth partly wrapped, such that in this tomb
she could be breathing in sleep, having a brief
bad dream, not a gasp, not a scream, last rheum

from the brain in its case, stubbled scalp, cramped grief,
of the sky and its symbols little help remains,
her final meal rye bread—this much we keep—

the Haraldskær Woman’s, in turn, unhusked grain,
bits of blackberries, and here I have to look away.

Emma Aylor is the author of Close Red Water (2023), winner of the Barrow Street Poetry Book Prize. She lives in Lubbock, Texas. To read more, visit her website.