Sleeping girl at Rhynie

adream in her stone-lined cist
still as still
she has lain for centuries

her small body melting
to a ghost print
engraved by peat

she is a feather, a breath
so quiet among
the clay moulds for cloak-pins
the fragments of Frankish glass
things wrought
things brought

no grave goods blessed
her passage to whatever afterlife
she had feared or hoped for

her being
narrowed to one tiny bone
that rang, almost beyond hearing
almost by accident
against a student’s trowel

I have lived so many lives
here in my waiting:
have been beetle, earthworm, mite
I have diminished
I have enriched
at last, the sky

speckle-dark, a merlin
dashes over the dig, is gone

Mandy Macdonald

This poem about the archaeological excavations at Rhynie was first published online in The Writers’ Café, issue 19, under the title ‘aquatint; sleeping girl’. 

Writer and musician Mandy Macdonald lives in Aberdeen, trying to make sense of the 21st and other centuries. Her poetry can be found in many anthologies and online and print journals in the UK and further afield. She is a member of Intuitive Music Aberdeen (, an ensemble specializing in music created by the performers, often in combination with poetry. 

Mandy’s first collection, The temperature of blue, was published in February 2020 by Blue Salt Collective (, and is available from