We make him dress up,
hooded cloak, scythe and skull,
the Grim Reaper,
put a name to it
sinister slapstick
to cover the skeleton he is.

Furtive footsteps,
heard but not seen
in the wooly uncertain night,
in the darkened hospital ward,
in your last agony;
he’s always eager for our passing
to sate him, bate
the restless life around him;
his petty noise in your delirium,
the ghost of sound,
echoing against old mens’ ears,
against the baby’s tiny shell of an ear,
against the nightingale’s sweet
voice, captivating;
all these and others competing
for your last glimmer of attention
on your way out.

When he comes, when he comes,
the soft schuss of a shot skier,
making his lone descent.

These sounds and your last movements,
pure and simple as moonlight and
the trees bending in the wind
come together, foretell the end,
one way or another
peaceful, resigned, painful, brutal,
in our midst, death, like clockwork,
regular and familiar as the morning sun.

Even in the last extreme
hardly ever do we say “enough!”
and mean it,
grasping for one more day,
one more blink of an eye,
one more good green spring,
we continue to hope,
until cut to the quick,
stopped cold,
we hear his voice say come
and away we go,
leaving all we know behind,
departing for whatever
eternity holds of emptiness,
of death, of nothing,
of even less than nothing.

Limitless, hidden beyond horizons
the gape of the unknown;
at the end of the road
undisclosed forever what fate
that fearsome spectre,
voluminously berobed,
that everlasting mystery
holds for all of us
in his bony emphatic hand.