lancelot british library royal ms 14 e iii r133v strtch

A pilgrim, a penitent. A forest.
Ruffians, blades, cudgels. Then
a kind family passing through.
Their tired horses and tents. He bathes
in a freezing lake. The lass behind
a veil of snow, watching. The next day,
a wrecked village. Bodies. Smoke
still hanging heavy in the damp air.
The head magician wears armor.
The wife wears a cap. The dreamer
wears someone else’s clothes.
The captives become chattel as the
wagons plow along. There are crows.
Lots of them. Then more blood and more
murder and more ubiquitous mist.
They’ve taken the girl, of course, and
all the food. But a quest is just the thing
to quell misgivings. Our hero rides hard
toward his death. Briefly deterred by
monstrous reanimations and lots of
growling. Volcanoes on the horizon.
Lost companions found. More beer,
more weapons. Thunder. A bridge unrolling
over a gray river. Arriving never
happens.  Later on a house built
where bones and broken cups crop up
whenever it rains–things left over from
this one life we get as the us we are.
How hard to believe oneself loved,
every dark place subdued by light.

That’s Mister Death to You

Moscophoros - crop mod

You know him: sandy-faced, sea-eyed,
placid as a calf, quick as a snake,
cropping up at the edge of your dreams
with that archaic smile on his face
that could be grief’s fake grin or
the smirk of smutty thoughts.
It’s the satisfied look he had when
it thundered and he peed in his chair
in second grade or when, held back
twice in the eighth, he showed the
rubber in his pocket to the girls.

Later on he’s the cop who tells you, as if
you didn’t know, you’re double-parked,
you’ll have to go. Or, just as well,
he eases out from a dark place
and makes your bones freeze.
Maybe he’s the earnest bachelor
who, on his way to a party, forgets
about pedestrians. Or maybe
he doesn’t run you over in the road:
you’re at the party he’s going to,
he leans in close and says,
“Let’s get out of here.”

He’s the guy who wakes you up
on the train when you’re so far
past your station you can’t get home
tonight. He’s the student who
lets you know his grade preference
by showing you his knife. He’s
the doctor who ignores the racing
clamor of your heart and
sends you to a shrink.

Some say that death’s a woman,
but you know she’s really him.
At every bus-stop of your brain
he’s got his gaze on you. And when
he crosses that final parking lot
to ask you for a light,
there won’t be anybody else you know.

altered image; original image: Moschophoros, Acropolis Museum,