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.