In my dream about death, I come upon a hill,
silhouetted, and draw back behind the darkening
of a sheltered niche. There, upright in rows
of wooden chairs, the dead, their bodies still,
stare forward like children at school. Sitting
near the front, a teacher I’d once had, in a pose
from a Puritan portrait: his hair cropped,
conservative, in strands the color of ash;
his hands are folded loosely in his lap.
The surviving sun polishes a map
of light upon the grass, the sky unlashed
like leaves. Another flash drops,
brindled, across his face. He does not look
at me, but unfolds his hands and tugs gently
at my sleeve, confesses no one can remit
his crimes—mine also; that death, as from a book,
had torn the pages of years; that this memento mori
was not his life as he had left it.
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