In the cemetery of Beit She’arim
inside a tomb from the third century
paved with mosaic
and decorated with wildlife reliefs
is carved an inscription
commemorating a local resident.

The author, though Jewish, had a Greek style:

    I lie, son of Leontius dead, son of Sappho,
    who after having gathered of the fruit
    of all wisdom left the light.

    Woe is me, in my Beit She’arim.
    After having gone to Hades,
    I, Justus, lie here with many of my relatives
    for that is what powerful fate has decreed.
    Be consoled, Justus. No one is immortal.

Dark is the house without windows.
Dust is the only weather in the tomb.

Indifferent as a reflecting moon,
a green moth flitted over the stone,
then lay for a long moment on the ground.


Anne Whitehouse