When Death comes, svelte in her lycra catsuit
and toting a silken swag-bag;
when Death comes thieving, stealing to my bedside
on the soles of her stockinged feet;
when Death comes ...
I want to be ready, my heart thrown open
like a storehouse of delights for her to ransack.
I want to watch her as she makes her reckoning,
scanning that hoard with the practised eye
of a true professional.
I want to follow the sweep of those tapered fingers
as she makes her first selection:
crumples to her nostrils
that pair of satin briefs - you know the ones -
with the hand-stitched bow
that stood like a cross, like a false prohibition
on the brow of your crotch.
I want to be there when she fans that drawstring bag
and pops them in.
I want to know that it’s the last I’ll ever see of them.
I want to throw back the covers and join her,
sit beside her as she rifles the scrapbook
where I’ve kept our daughter’s journey into life:
from tadpole in the ultrasound to surly teen.
“Aah,” she says, “that’s good, that’s very good …”
And the mouth of the bag is cavernous,
dense as a collapsing star.
I want to watch the curl of her lips
as she takes from me
the fruits of a boyhood summer’s beach-combing,
the mermaid’s purse, and the cowrie-shells
my mother threaded on a necklace;
the vapours from a rain-drenched flower-bed;
the mists that rose around us
as we punted on the Cherwell.
I want her to be pitiless. I want her to know
this life I’ve led has been suffused with joy,
has been infused, infected, insurrected with the joyful.
I want her to be envious, to pick me clean.
I want to enter the Bardo bone-white, empty,
ready to learn just what it is
that I’ve to live for next.