These midlife nights, when I turn from you in bed
It’s not for loss of love, but from remembering
Death, crouched nearby in its copse of shadows.
As the dying stop eating, drinking, speaking,
As they gather their rationed breaths for the plunge
Out of existence—No, wait, but that’s not right.
The soul outlasts the knowledge of those who’ve said
Goodbye, returning to the clean white anteroom
Of the living with its nurses’ stations, its flowers
That keep on blooming even when the name
On the card has emptied of its occupant.
The soul moves on. Likewise, the dying body,
Beginning to edge away by small degrees
From breath and thought, declines offers to sustain it—
Even now, against my better will my life,
Unschismed, girds itself for this departure:
No bag, no cloak, shaking the dust from its feet.
Tonight I’m falling asleep in my own arms,
Thinking that in that day when one of us
Awakes to find the sun still shining,
Other people still laughing and playing music,
Mail accrued in drifts on the kitchen table,
Clothes in the closet hanging unperturbed,
The dog who looks past the figure in the doorway
Wagging his tail in confident expectation,
The last two beers dewy in the fridge,
Hours and years will line up like empty glasses,
Too much for one person to drink alone
Without long practice, taken unawares.