Observing Death at a Sickbed

I can see you, though I don’t know what to call you in passing.

You are not an angel, but you are not a monster.

A shadow without darkness,

A solemn thing without judgment.

I can see you, old bird, faceless man,

I know you smile gently.

I tried screaming at you.

But you did not hear me

I wept at you and begged.

But you did not see me.

I raged.

But you did not need me.

Now I nod and smile gently in return

Now we catch each other in the corners of our eyes.

So you are with us again

A caressing, skeletal hand

Down a dress,

Cupping a breast,

Murmuring eternal nothings in an ear –

We cannot hear those teeth

Those tongueless mouths.

Hearts drown out the sound.

The Italian Renaissance showed it best-

A voluptuous woman

In a yellow gown

Braided hair and rosy lipped

A bag of bones draped around her shoulders,

A hand gently plucking back a bodice

This is the particular beauty that we cannot see

Not life but death

Nor life yet death

But life and death

The constant, the beautiful truth

The unchanging and informal caress

Of a promise which is always kept.

I wonder – will I see you when you drape your arms around me?

It would not be a bad thing

To track your progress in the room

To count your steps to my side

Perhaps that would be better than being tackled by you on a highway


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