I sometimes think I recognize the face
of my own death. Knowing it is nearer
makes me feel it ought to be familiar,
a neutral guest I’ve seen somewhere before.
Even if it’s not a face I know,
can it be ignored,
that shadow presence quiet in a corner?
And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
Which is the lesser of two evils here,
which the least boorish way to be a host?
Who is hosting whom? If I’m a host,
I’m also just as much a guest, a ghost.
What heart heard of, ghost guessed. So,

death, I’ll acknowledge you, I’ll be polite,
hand you a drink and let you circulate
and talk with others. You will cycle back.
Precisely: at my back I always hear
and do not hear and see and do not see,
know and do not know you’ll catch up with me.
Since I think I know you from somewhere,
why should I be so sure
that you do not know me at least as well,
my length of days and my Achilles heel,
which in each person’s in a different place?
Sometimes I think I recognize your face.

New to The New Criterion?

Subscribe for one year to receive ten print issues, and gain immediate access to our online archive spanning more than four decades of art and cultural criticism.

This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 39 Number 6, on page 27
Copyright © 2023 The New Criterion | www.newcriterion.com