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Death loves no shining mark,
Fussy Victorians.
He is all Ozymandias
Weaving garlands of ashes
For Might Have Been.

Death is no verse on stone
But slow, unrhymed cadence,
Not God’s trombones;
Just gradients of earth and spade.
The widow’s march is to the grave.

Let Death be that “pretty how town,”
Roses strewn here to Equilibrium.
Install Sorrow as mayor
And Regret chief counsellor.
For Death wants his parades.

Give permit to his ordered brood,
And litter the ground in petals.
Still he sweeps just where he should.
This stand will not be denied. The fee is paid.

We would stumble, hands tracing frescoes,
But Death knows his way, is steady
On his mount, a calm navigator.
All orations are ready, decorations
On the ruined promenade immaculate.

On the platform he clears his throat
For his argument with Cain,
Fits and cinches his morning coat
And cravat, and calls the roll.

The God who said let us argue this out
Never pledged to us to change this route.
Pleas for accommodation are vain.
The shovel just comes down again.

This route is marked by what we broke.
Glittered shards and shreds,
Tossed confetti of our hopes
Squashed dull in the trammeling
Like they never knew glistening.

And he sighs and raises the baton
To start the argument we cannot win,
The dull brass march down the boulevard.
His moment came. It will come again.

Take this wilted wreath of ceremony.
The fresh grief of just-plucked flowers
Is your monument here
That marks the hour of this passing
Like flame through antimony.

This is the only monument—
Tarnished sun glinting on chrome,
This anthem that is all refrain
Of Adam weeping the earth for Cain.
Death turns home. He will turn again.


Pamela Sumners is a constitutional and civil rights lawyer from Alabama. Her work has been published or recognized by The Woven Tale Press (2018 third-place contest winner); Streetlight (2018 third-place contest winner); Pen 2 Paper (2018 Literary Division winner); Gival Press Oscar Wilde Award (2018 finalist); Muse Pie Press (Pushcart nominee, 2018); Thirty West (2018 Chapbook Contest finalist); Vella Press (2018 Chapbook Contest finalist); Eyewear Sexton Book Award 2018 (long list); U City Review; Tahoma Literary Review; California Quarterly; Loch Raven Review; Third Wednesday; Better than Starbucks; BACOPA; New Verse News; Mudlark; Snakeskin; What Rough Beast; Blue Unicorn (forthcoming); The Lake (forthcoming January 2019); and Gyroscope (forthcoming, winter 2019). She lives in St. Louis with her family, which includes three rescue dogs.

© 2019, Pamela Sumners

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