At the Shrine
Grunting and shoving, punctilious Muslims,
Talmudic Jews, Old-Testament Christians
jostling one another.
The dead look down
on the scene in wonder, pondering what
celestial unction might lubricate
this witless friction.
Yet the dead remember
an unlikely pause: two lying beatified,
breast to breast, the point of their quarrel
So the dead look down
and hold their breath, for the dead have time
if nothing else.
Nouns were the first to slip away.
Was it because they were easier to forget,
or the most dispensable?
Funerals back then were milling
with nouns whose names he'd forgotten,
if he'd ever met them.
Evidently, somewhere out there
a swarm of improper nouns
had prospered and multiplied.
Odd nouns came knocking every day
looking for work, till the old bard
left off answering the door.
Verbs were beasts of another persuasion.
For a while some stayed behind,
pacing the halls or curled on the living room sofa.
But they had to be fed. Some nights
they sank their claws in his thigh
when they were hungry.
As the last syllable crept away,
he felt a peculiar lightness,
like the wisp that rises,
from a smoldering wick
as if words were the burden
he'd been bearing, all his life.