Holy City of Byzantium

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The Dead

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by Charles Simic (b. 1938)

They were white like the stones in the meadow
The sheep lick.
White stones like children in Sunday dress
Playing bride and groom.

We found a clockface with Roman numerals
In the old man’s overcoat pocket.
It was time for a bit of rain to fall.
He looked at the sky without recognizing it.

Your hands, Mother, which made the old man disappear,
The Lord who saw over them.
His martyrs, pierced by arrows, have their eyes open.

“I put out the lights so their eyes won’t find me,” you said.
O dreams like shirttails vanishing in a windswept meadow,
And your hands like white mice, Mother.

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