William Michaelian

Poems, Notes, and Drawings

Death and the Scribe

And if this is a death bed edition, how is it that the bed is piled high with papers and books, leaving no room for the body? And how is it that, when I hold up my hand, it seems less flesh than daylight?

Death and the Scribe

Old though he was,
Death hadn’t the heart to take him,
The diligent, muttering scribe.
Already, the world had forgotten him,
His ideas shining like coins.

He worked alone,
With little or nothing to eat.
His table was littered with pages.

Death looked on:
Perhaps an exception in his case.
Why be forever bound?
Am I not free to choose?

While Death thought thus,
The old scribe continued his work.
He had long outlived his fear.
Let Death come, let it not come.
To him it was all the same.

There was a time, Death said,
When I would have laughed
At such an attitude. Or been offended.
But that time, that time, is gone.
Though I might crush him with a single blow,
This scribe isn’t the least bit concerned.

Death smiled to himself:
It seems I am losing my touch.

Still, he did not act. Could not.
He began to ponder his own eternal nature,
And the grim task he had been given to perform.
When was I born? Not ever, not ever.
When will I die? Never? How can this be?
Who made this decision for me?

And another thought: Do I not murder?

One by one, Death remembered:
The tiny children, the mothers, the wives.
Death remembered the strong young men
And the wise grandmothers he had buried:
So cruel, and by my own blood-soaked hands.

Yet poets liken me to winter and autumn:
See how Death paints the leaves and fields;
Thus he prepares us for the bright season ahead.

He wept.

The old scribe heard the sound.
He turned, then went to Death’s side:
Forgive me, my friend. I am old,
I did not know you were here.
He placed his hand,
Warm from the work he loved,
On Death’s weary shoulder.

Songs and Letters, September 17, 2005

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Categories: Songs and Letters

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