Fall 2008

Table of Contents - Vol. IV, No. 3


Poetry    Translations    Fiction    Essays   

Robert S. King


The Gravedigger’s Pay Dirt

The wind starts early today,
scolds the grave, my lunch box, my shovel,
throws dirt back into a half-eaten hole to finish.

My lunch is left over from a previous life,
whose appetite was never satisfied,
whose bread turned hard to match its sleepless eyes.

I'm old and creaky, but regret is louder.
I have no teeth for the hard bread I've become,
have no bite except the hole my shovel makes.

Someday the grave will be a good place to hide.
Today I have no good place to put the dirt,
except on the chest of someone someone lost.
I hear a sigh when the weight is dropped.

It's always someone else's grave,
where respectfuls sway like trees about to fall.
Many of their tears fall inward,
but some splatter on the one they knew,
and some land on familiar shoulders,
dark-coated trunks leaning on one another
as their leaves, like money, blow away.

Hunger—not heart, not greed—is life.
I feel empty but do not wish to eat
a legacy that would rot me from the inside
like the fruit of the dead curling black.
Still my heart stops for its lunch,
a thin-skinned bag bleeding through.

I must swallow what little life it gives,
put it to work, make a living
that gets paid every Deathday.
The black sweat of my brow hardens
in the wind that works late today.


Graveyard Shift

I prefer the dead of night,
but hold back its chill for a living
while moths pop against the lantern.

How deceiving is light
that holds out its arms
only to blind and burn,
while this cold shovel and this dark hole
offer nothing but the whole truth.

Shift over, I snuff out the lamp,
squint at a million moth holes
in the moonless sky.

Around me the godless moths swim
in a nightmare of black blood,
splattering the glazed headstones,
the ghost of redemption oozing
along the etchings.

My nightmare is light
that shows me where I'm blind.
My sweet dream is oblivion
that keeps me in the dark.


The Gravedigger’s Plot

Today a baptism of rain shines like a mirror,
helps me dig below the light,
helps me plot a seed of vengeance.
I lay this body on a hair‑trigger spring,
tie a cold mirror to its chest,
tuck it in like a jack‑in‑the‑box,
a joke on graverobbers.

When Jack pops from the earth,
who will look into his eyes?
Who will hear the word Surprise!
from his toothy grin?
Who will believe in the wild treasures
to which his petrified finger points?

Maybe they will get the point,
but maybe graverobbers just stare down
their mirrors, just pull his gold teeth,
laugh at the ancient joker
long after I've passed through the mirror.


© Robert S. King



Poetry    Translations    Fiction    Essays   

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