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.
This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 39 Number 6, on page 27
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