Death Anxiety

Each night at ten
the fossoyeur powdered white with lime
reads the tally by the excavation.
The trussed lie there hooded, tagged,
after the weather the viewers sleep.
The mice fear death, the unselected,
for they have a pulse of finite beats
and even the rats along the foundations
when exposed by the digger’s jaw
spin around each other like eels.
Death’s saw leaves a nick in the bark,
who is up there in the fork
searching for sails on the horizon?
Even in a book cave three stacks deep
the seller found no sanctuary.
In the village of Damme a widow
lay his marionettes carefully on straw
hoping they would survive the night.
Leaves that drop onto the canal
are moved by the passage of swans,
thus they turn awhile, the brown, the lime
here along the Potterierei in Bruges.
But like a wary deer you maintained
the same distance from mourners
in the Brussels Cemetery that winter,
far enough not to hear the creak
of a hand clench in an unfamiliar glove.
Husks of shame scattered all around
the easily summoned human reaction.
On the ice three crows, black pistons
tearing powerfully at something
impossible to identify.