The streets of the living are among the streets of the dead,
the houses of the living among the houses of the dead –
three centuries of dead packed close, stacked twelve deep.
On stones, scissors mark a tailor, grapes announce abundance.
The windows of the living look on, the lace of their curtains
white and clean, the leaves on their ledges potted, polished.
But the living trouble the dead: ivy, weeds
eat the stone. The acacia, maple, grow green and tall,
the berries round and red, and I can’t think what their roots drink.
We tourists parade solemnly by, the pious inscribing their own messages,
slipping paper under pebbles to plead with the dead. It doesn’t matter
what we want: the dead don’t mind, don’t care. We living get
a thick string to divide the path permitted from the path forbidden.
Two half-broken benches, a rusty tap to rinse our hands of them.
Prague, August, 2009