It is not death one fears, but dying alone
Amid strangers; the brakes, the blow
In the busy street, and then a faintly observant bundle
In the emergency ward, moving a little,
Then not at all, under the bored, annoyed eyes
Of the clerk and nurse, while police
Pick over the checkbook, the coins and crumbs
In the pockets of life. Mothers admonish daughters
Always to wear clean underwear, and avoid embarrassment
If struck by automobiles or other climactic occasions.
Death in battle has honor in the conversation of survivors;
The wounded tumble into the comforting blanket of shock;
Terror teaches that death is wonderful, and is strange.
But it waits for us all, like a black crab,
The sludge in the blood, the sputter and fail of circuits,
As sector after sector goes out, and responses from reality
Come in slowly or not at all.
So stupid with missed signals we turn to the uncomprehending
Faces of children, seeking a mother attendant;
The ceremonies of oxygen and grief
Providing, more than help for lack of breath,
Assurance that this is an important death.