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THE RED HEART
IV The Ivory Steeple

James Reaney

 

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Coffins


Coffins are Death’s eggs
Whose yolks, then, are the corpses
Of dead men and women,
Girls, boys and babies,
Girlfriends, boyfriends and lovers.
Death lays them in her cool nest
That is the gravelly ancient breast
Of Earth, that rotting head
That like a criminal’s face
Severed and thrown from the block
Tumbles round and round
The pitying merciful Sun.

And Death, her children laid
(With Abel as her nest-egg),
Then waits for them to hatch
Upon the branches of a dead tree
Which neither wind nor rain
Can strike down or revive.
She waits, oh centuries! in vain
For never will the pharaoh hid
In secret room within the pyramid
Rise for her from his golden bed
Until Queen Death herself is dead.