To Odette Bost
Into the houses where children die
Go some very old people.
They sit down in the antechamber
Their sticks between their black knees.
They listen, nod their heads.
Every time the child coughs
Their hands clutch their hearts
And make big yellow spiders
And the cough, rising through the furnishings,
Is shredded, listless as a pale butterfly.
They have vague smiles
And the child’s cough stops
And the big yellow spiders
On the polished boxwood handles
Of the sticks, between their hard knees.
And then, when the child is dead
They get up, and go elsewhere…