Once, death was a familiar figure,
in his shirt-sleeves at the kitchen
table, or lying companionably in the bed
between a man and wife, hampering
the work of midwives at each birth,
bending over cradles in chill dawns.
He hovers round you now, cranes
his neck beyond the nurse who guards
and nourishes all day and night, longs
to unplug monitors, twist drips, stem
oxygen, licks his lips at your fragility,
waits to claim you as his own.
But the legion armed with microscopes
and stethoscopes are at your side.
They gift you strength to send him
slouching off into the dawn, and you sit up,
comb your elfin hair, smile a young girl’s
hopeful smile, resplendent in survival.
If you have any comments on this poem, Maggie Butt would be pleased
to hear from you.