The Grim Reaper in Their Midst
From the ledge
in variously negligent attires
the ghostly shadows
and peeling paint
pretend to know what they’re doing
as they maneuver
the soldiers underneath
with sword-like contraptions.
in various stages of coherence
look at us
or at each other
or at the Grim Reaper in their midst.
Are they being stabbed
or guided as they stab each other?
A man in the back wonders
if he himself is a puppet.
The Grim Reaper is bored
and has better things to do with his death.
If photography had been more common
the cleverest soldier could have
taken a photo of
the audience, or John Singer,
or the mountain range outside.
As it stands, no one is having much fun,
not even at the auction
at which the painting is being sold
as you read this. The auctioneer
would love to set the room on fire
or at least bring in a few water buffalo
to discipline the guests.
But he can’t even think of
a single joke.
Anton Yakovlev's latest chapbook Chronos Dines Alone, winner of the James Tate Poetry Prize 2018, was published by SurVision Books. He is also the author of Ordinary Impalers (Kelsay Books, 2017) and two prior chapbooks. His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The Hopkins Review, Measure, Amarillo Bay, and elsewhere. The Last Poet of the Village, a book of translations of poetry by Sergei Yesenin, is forthcoming from Sensitive Skin Books.
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