Milton’s Grave

 

Milton lay in his Cripplegate grave

repeating to himself that one blindness

was similar to another. He felt the weight

of time-to-come the way he’d once borne sky.

This was no more alone than his wives’ deaths

had made him feel. As he’d feared, paradise

had nothing to do with him.

Still, there was comfort: no more

ink-starved pens, no tasks waiting

like supplicants by his bedside.

 

When the digging started again, he wondered

if he might be taken for a stroll,

perhaps to the oak leaning over the river.

Without eyes or faith, journeys were nothing

but vibration. He heard the scrape

of the coffin lid lifting, raindrops thumping

lightly on his chest. So this is the afterlife,

he mused, the breath of his intruder

sour with something undercooked.

He didn’t like the feeling of being watched

but couldn’t do a thing about it.

 

The ugly snap of bones breaking

turned out to be the only sound he could make.

In pieces, there was more of him.

His wrist popped out like an owl’s egg,

though his femur had to be wrenched.

His baby finger would make a fine

conversation piece. And his teeth,

raw and slimy as ruined souls.

 

By the time the robber

had filled her corset with silver,

Milton was almost boneless.

Like a saint, he thought, as if his Catholic

heritage had tracked him down.

Like a snake condemned never to

lift its belly off the ground.

Where was God in all this meddling?

What they buried a second time

could hardly be called a man.