Tarantula, or The Dance of Death
By Anthony Hecht
During the plague I came into my own.
It was a time of smoke-pots in the house
Against infection. The blind Head of bone
Grinned its abuse
Like a good democrat at everyone.
Runes were recited daily, charms were applied.
That was the time I came into my own.
Half Europe died.
The symptoms are a fever and dark spots
First on the hands, then on the face and neck
But even before the body, the mind rots.
You can be sick
Only a half day with it before you’re dead.
But the most curious part of it is the dance.
The victim goes, in short, out of his head.
A sort of trance
Glazes the eyes, and then the muscles take
His will away from him, the legs begin
Their funeral jig, the arms and belly shake
Like souls in sin.