Hailey Leithauser

This is death, dreary as the dying was,
half slop on the bottom, half stew
on the top, half forgotten wren
evening song, tiny and timeless bird singing.
This is death when you don’t have a breath
or a pulse or a voice but still
have two lungs and a rubbery heart to breathe
in and out of,
less of a death than a settling,
less of a settling than press
under the march of feet feet feet foot
that nobody knows a dying
dead man is deeply and darkly and quietly
privy to (marking
a calender
of sour nosed worms, acidic
maggots, slug, beetle, grub
at nest in a tibia they will never grow
fat on.) This is a death
that crows want to honor and snow
at rest on gentling hills wants to lie over.
This death that is weariness,
this death that is meaningless
and careful experience,
that is glacial and graveled, hoveled experience
like that of existence (calling of children
over millennia, loud rivers,
clouds). This is the palaces
of children and clouds, days made
of fingers and brown brittle ferns,
nights made of phosphorus,
stale water stench. This is the blanch
of a close, stagnant pyre,
the burning of soft-bodied amber,
the cargo of stomach, the plenty of gut.
This is the roughed and the untidy peace
of a mud-sodden stuff.
This is the death the living are made of.