What’s a life? The sleeping
underside of a moist log,


its auburn fibers dreaming
their caked future: bedded
with worm husks, rotting leaves,
the ochre dust from termites,
bird gone to shreds.


decay. decay. the song everything


Song the nurse tree murmurs
while saplings pull
up from her fallen body—her grave
a perfect row of grown trees.
The rain forest hums with these ghosts.


Exemplary lives.
In the arms of the living,
vines tent the soil.
Ferns finger from stumps crusty
with lichen,
each thing host
to another.
Here, death is the mother,
time the bed she labors on.



All our acts cry
to get back,
all our marrying and giving into
forgetting what green things know:
to begrudge death is to mourn a broken
egg shell or the smell of peaches
ripening, the golden late-August


Inside the shell, blood
speck in the egg’s bright pupil.
Mourn that
if you mourn the shell.



Our song: what we eat
ends with us. We end
with ourselves: motherless. Dis-
owned from the dark
belly of the world. Caesura.
Under each note,
the rasp of hair against gut.


Everything dies to bear you.
Everything born
dies with you.
Marry the shadow—the dark sister
of all that grows,


the doe’s belly flowing
with maggots, her dead smell
coloring the brush.

Roz Spafford


“Threnody” was first published in broadside by Moving Parts Press in a letterpress edition of 30 copies, each with an original watercolor by Mary Warshaw, 1992. It was republished in 2008 in Requiem.