“We’ll dance and laugh at the red-nosed gravedigger,
Who dreams not that Death is so merry a fellow.”
–Thomas Lovell Beddoes, Death’s Jest Book
The charnel house of words you left for us
rings with the laughter of a man who’s seen
his own picked skull and deemed it ludicrous.
Your dirges whisper that beneath the green
blades that we trample, corpses putrefy.
Ghouls at our elbows long for us to die;
if we could see such horrors, we’d go mad.
You saw, but recreated every scene:
your dead act foolishly, but seem serene
next to the men who mourn the dreams they had,
cursing their scepters, killing those they love.
Your Jest Book is a fitting epitaph,
dismissed as morbid by the ones above
too full of hopes to hear your spectral laugh.
Jeff Holt is the author of The Harvest (White Violet Press, 2012). Jeff’s poem, “A Madwoman,” was featured in the most recent issue of Measure, and he has previously published poems in Angle, Antiphon Poetry Magazine, String Poet, and numerous other print and online journals and anthologies. “Laughter in the Charnel House” originally appeared in The Newsletter (or The Day Will Come) of The Thomas Lovell Beddoes Society, Volume 13. 2008.