Now this is it, said Death,
and as far as I could see
Death was looking at me.

This all happened in hospital,
in washed out corridors,
and the doctor peered at me
with periscopic eyes.
He stuck his head in my mouth,
scratched away at my larynx —
perhaps a small seed
of death was stuck there.

At first, I turned into smoke
so that the cindery one
would pass and not recognize me.
I played the fool, I grew thin,
pretended to be simple or transparent —
I wanted to be a cyclist
to ped2d out of death’s range.

Then rage came over me
and I said, ‘Death, you bastard,
must you always keep butting in?
Haven’t you enough with all those bones?
ru tell you exactly what I think:
you have no discrimination, you’re deaf
and stupid beyond belief.

‘Why are you following me?
What do you want with my skeleton?
Why don’t you take the miserable one,
the cataleptic, the smart one,
the bitter, the unfaithful, the ruthless,
the murderer, the adulterers,
the two-faced judge,
the deceiving journalist,
tyrants from islands,
those who set fire to mountains,
the chiefs of police,
jailers and burglars?
Why do you have to take me?
What business have I with Heaven?
Hell doesn’t suit me —
I feel fine on the earth.’