. Officium Defunctorum Spiritus meus attenuabitur, dies mei breviabuntur, et solum mihi superest sepulcrum. —Job 17:1 There is no need for first or final vow; Our cities all are monasteries now, And every squalid garret is a cell Where oblates reach for heaven out of hell. There is no light, no single light that burns Unsnuffed, uncheapened by a vulgar sun That mocks our petty candles, as it turns Them into dying embers, one by one. A struck match flares an instant, then it’s out And shows us nothing but enshadowed doubt, Uncertain as this photo-blur of time We wade through, grasping out the human mime. Dusk is here—the windows give less light; Corners darken; only the sophist-glow Of lying lamps remains to postpone night— The night that will come, whether we will or no. . Note The Office of the Dead (Officium Defunctorum) is recited in memory of the departed. Job 17:1 - My spirit will be weakened, my days will be shortened, and only the tomb remains for me. . . For the Churlish Priest …Lay her i’ the earth, And from her fair and unpolluted flesh May violets spring! I tell thee, churlish priest, A minist’ring angel shall my sister be When thou liest howling. —Hamlet, Act V, scene 1 I have heard it said that death is sleep, Gravity’s pull on sinful, fallen flesh That must await a promised resurrection. We are thrashed in turn by love and loss And come at last to coffin-wood and stone, The reticence of laconic epitaphs. So bury her without the sacred rites— I know the flowers that my sister keeps Are more than candles or the golden cup. . . Evensong Twilight in my garden nods her head— A slowly slipping diadem of rose Creamy with the pastel-pink of seashells Burns behind the yellowed leaves in rows, Makes of them mute and shield-like cameos. Does she salute the living, or the dead? Is she a theme for poetry, or prose? Do I weave hopeless fancies from inkwells? Is that the life my savage spirit chose? Light the votive candles. Late it grows. . . Joseph S. Salemi has published five books of poetry, and his poems, translations and scholarly articles have appeared in over one hundred publications world-wide. He is the editor of the literary magazine TRINACRIA and writes for Expansive Poetry On-line. He teaches in the Department of Humanities at New York University and in the Department of Classical Languages at Hunter College.