Death is sleeping
beneath the surface of the water.
She is alive with insects,
moss flowering over her wings.
Little black bat, submerged in formaldehyde,
leather-skinned old woman–
don’t wake just yet.
I’d like to make a bargain with you:
a little more time, if you please. Ask
and I will provide. What is it you’d like?
My baby teeth? A lock of my hair,
cut before it turned dark?
The memory of a conversation
five years gone,
worn down to threads?
I cannot sit here any longer
waiting for you to rise up,
streaming ropes of bright water from your shoulders,
cloaked in glass,
and opening your membranous wings
to blot out the light.
The waiting is worse than anything.
Do you want me to sing you back to sleep? I will do so.
Only stop eating holes in all my possessions,
going through the things I love like woodworm
and making the water heave to and fro
with your breathing,
tossing and turning in the black music of your dreams.
Death, I love you best when you are asleep
and far away from here,
when I can hold you in my heart as a theorem,
as an abstract.
Rest easy, and let the waters fall to stillness
over your face,
like a baptism in reverse,
or a hermit crab retreating,
curling back into the dark brown chasm
of its shell.
by Ellison Skinner