One man dons a stethoscope to eavesdrop,
through earth, for a breaking of wind, a cough.
Tunnelling through chalk without making a sound
makes the men, not stone deaf, but snow blind.
The cure is a trip up the incline
to take in the sky.
Because all of their uniforms are white
and no one can see, when two snow blind parties meet
they trace the contours of each other’s faces
with chalky fingertips to determine friends, enemies.
They would pass for performance artists—
the one who operates the spade with his feet,
the second who stops dug chalk from falling,
the last who bears the spoil to the light.
As house lights gutter out for want of air,
each matinée brings them closer to the night.
To the names of the ones who will never be found
add the canary whose last breath is all his keepers
lived for, whose posthumous decorations for bravery
will be its wing-, and tail-, and chest-feathers.
It brings us closer to peace, imagining
a skylark waiting for silence to sing.