Sensing Death

Death smells like honey here,

melted in the rotting coast live

oak, stinking of cinnamon,

and lemony eucalyptus leaves

lying uncensored together in state.


Death tastes like the soft fur of a field mouse

in the tight grin of my cat

who has leapt up from outside onto the sill

to please us, smearing small blood

onto the cold glass.


Death feels like the bone shard

in my small toe, shivering, flashing

gentle electrical pain into my shoulders,

my calves, my earlobes, nailing me

to the hard wooden floor.


Death sounds like the long in-drawn breath

my daughter took when she backwards flipped

off the sofa onto the brass lamp base, silence

lasting longer than her animal screech.


Death looks like nothing I know, everything

I am turning into, my body degrading

into entropy, into apathetic skin flakes,

into the smell of armpits,

the taste of mold on nectarines,

the sound of bone cracking on wood,

the feel of these keys on calloused tips,

tipping me to the fact that death and I

will be playing poker in the caboose

for high stakes in no time soon.

by Paul Totah, July 1, 1997

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