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Implements from the "Tomb of the Poet"

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Piraeus Archeological Museum

On the journey to the mundane afterlife,
You travel equipped to carry on your trade:
A bronze, small-toothed saw to make repairs,
The stylus and the ink pot and the scraper,
Wax tablets bound into a little book.

Here is the tortoise shell for the cithara,
Bored through with holes for strings, natural sound box.
Here is the harp's wood triangle, all empty—
The sheep-gut having long since decomposed
Into a pure Pythagorean music.

The beeswax, frangible with centuries,
Has puzzled all your lyrics into silence.
I think you were a poet of perfection
Who fled still weighing one word with another,
Since wax forgives and warms beneath revision.

Source: Poetry

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This poem originally appeared in the February 2001 issue of Poetry magazine

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Implements from the "Tomb of the Poet"

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