Reaper Man (or, The Book of Life)

Swish. And in this the last page, an illumination: Death at work in a billow of black, his robes wind-filled and dramatic, flapping dark against the bright sky and grain, blue over gold leaf, field under firmament, and the old scythe, sharp as sadness, flashing still, slashing a swath over and along the rolling hills.

The figure is at once distant and immediate: the picture is not like the narrative, with its inexorable logic, which proceeds page by page from the certainty that its unknown is contained by beginning and end. In this page plot goes missing, caught in the grasses by the thing with the freezing eyes – how can you face the end before it comes? in the end you will shut your eyes.

Crickets, crickets. Sweat: the smell of it, and the listening grass, like late summer. Every day a clay pot baked again by the sun to be shattered, and all the shards the same. Crickets, crickets. Give me combines! Give me thunder! Not the quiet scythe, not this straining to hear! Somewhere that may yet be near, something rustles. Swish.

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