Jeff Fearnside

Death and the Miser
December 26, 2021 Fearnside Jeff

Death and the Miser

After the painting of the same name by the Netherlandish artist Hieronymus Bosch

When death comes, it all goes:
the fine clothing,
chest of treasures,
old letters (to business
partners? illicit lovers?),
bag of money hidden
under your sheets,
armor cast off,
gauntlet at your feet, unheeded.
Death’s minions see it all.
One peers from above
the death bed’s canopy.
They scurry over and under
everything in the room,
clutching what you once clutched,
barbed tails swishing,
bat’s wings beating,
monkey faces agape.
Your one hope
is the angel behind you,
hand on your pale, bony shoulder,
eyes on the beam
of light from the high
window with the crucifix.
You only see death
gowned in bridal white
peering demurely

from behind the door,
the arrow pointed
at your narrow, wasted gut.

Jeff Fearnside’s poetry has appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies, including The Paris Review, Los Angeles Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and Forest Under Story: Creative Inquiry in an Old-Growth Forest (University of Washington Press). Honors for his work include the Peace Corps Writers Poetry Award, an Oregon Arts Commission Individual Artist Fellowship, and the Orison Chapbook Prize for his collection of short fiction A Husband and Wife Are One Satan (Orison Books).