One day, once upon a time, we met
each other in the house of Death.
However, Death, apparently, was not at home.
We seemed to understand that the house
of Death is rarely far away from wherever
we may find ourselves, but on this occasion,
Death was no farther from us than
a little house at the far end of a lane of
leafless maple trees, a little cottage
almost hidden in an leafless orchard.
Light flooded into every room
but every room seemed empty.
We couldn’t find a saucer or a toothbrush,
not a bathtub, nor a frying pan, not a curtain,
nor a light bulb, not one stick of furniture,
nor a spoon, nor a clock,
not a single roll of paper towels.
I held you in my arms and moved to kiss
your neck, but you said, “No.”
I kissed you anyway, and you said,
“Never stop.” We pressed together
into each other and only at that moment
felt the presence in the room of the
one who owned the house.
Death was block-like and metallic, as gray
as clouds in January and as
rigid and immobile as a
sculpture of the pharaoh
Tutankhamen seated on his throne,
except it had the unmistakable
appearance of a filing cabinet with
the top drawer opened, and—
how could we forget?–it also
wore gray wing-tip shoes.
Death, there are so many things
about you I don’t understand. For
example: why don’t you allow
yourself a more stylish coat of
paint? Would basic black be a cliché?
And those ridiculous shoes. Who
shines them if not you? And most
of all, why did you allow the two
of us into your home so I
might gently tease you now?
Forgive us, Mr. Death, we were so
absorbed in discovering each
other we forgot you came to
terminate our lives.
Then suddenly the house’s roof
and walls evaporated and we
found ourselves in rain and
darkness, pressed together
like a pair of leaves swept out
of the orchard and down
the lane, lost in a storm
with a thousand other leaves.
When light eventually returned I tried
to find Death’s home and find the
one who kissed me, but after searching
many years I’ve managed to find neither.
Perhaps one day, once upon a time,
another wind will blow us back into
the house of Death and we two leaves
will at last be ready to be pressed
together in a folder in the cabinet.
One final question, Mr. Death:
when you close that drawer on
what had been our lives would
you kindly shut it on us gently?
© 2010 J.M. Keating