Vanishing Point

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Hendrick Cornelisz. van der Vliet, Intérieur de l’Oude Kerk à Delft (1660–1670)

Already (my birthday, falling in mid-October,
a week away) pumpkins on stoops
and witches with brooms and gauzy spooks
asway on wrought-iron railings. These
disturb the grid that is at dusk
our habit to walk, a grid of blocks—

galleries, one and then another
until a church in Delft, the floor of its nave,
siphons my vision. Flanked by colonnades,
arcades with pointed arches,
beneath a wooden vault: a stone-slab grid—
receding lines that aim as though at God

as through the eye of a needle,
the rood screen’s doorway into the shadowy chancel.
Stone slabs, some few of which a man,
waist-deep in the floor,
whose red shirt draws the eye away—
this man’s pried up and swiveled aside.

Around him in heaps—
his right arm propped on the shovel,
against a column the broom—
a graveful of dirt. Waist-deep in the grave,
he’s hearing out a white-collared elder in black
with a Puritan hat on. Loose dirt and clods,

with bones, which look like clods, mixed in. A grid
of square stone slabs, converging lines that find,
I see, in the dusk of the chancel
the red-shirted grave’s new body … She bristles,
the dog does. A long, low growl
inches me up on whatever is new to sniff.