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the cold corpus of fine print

DEATH THE OXFORD DON

Sole heir to a distinguished laureate,
I serve as guardian to his grand estate,
And grudgingly admit the unwashed herds
To the ten-point mausoleum of his words.
Acquiring over years the appetite
And feeding habits of a parasite,
I live off the cold corpus of fine print,
Habited with black robes and heart of flint,
The word made flesh for me and me alone.
I knaw and knaw the satisfactory bone.

– Anthony Hecht, from his book Flight Among The Tombs. This poem is part of a sequence of poems called “The Presumptions of Death,” with Death speaking in the voices of different professions and personae (Death the Film Director, Death the Painter, Death the Hypocrite, etc.) , and accompanying woodcuts by Leonard Baskin.

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