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This poem is taken from PN Review 59, Volume 14 Number 3, January - February 1988.

Four Poems Charles Tomlinson

Catacomb

A capuchin - long acquaintance with the dead
  Has left him taciturn - stands guard
At gate and stairhead. Silent, he awaits
  The coin we drop into his dish, and then
Withdraws to contemplation - though his eye
  Glides with a marvellous economy sideways
Towards the stair. We descend and end up
  In a corridor with no end in view: dead
Line the perspective left and right
  Costumed for resurrection. The guidebook had not
    lied
Or tidied the sight away - and yet
  Eight thousand said, unseen, could scarcely mean
The silence throughout this city of the dead,
  Street on street of it calling into question
That solidity the embalmer would counterfeit.
  Mob-cap, cape, lace, stole and cowl,
...


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