Death, when you take him
make it like sleeping.
But first let him
tell you a story—the one about
the deli and how, in the mornings,
he soaked his brush in a barrel of oil
to paint the dead fish so they might
look fresh and not as if they had been caught
before the founding of New York.
Death, the bottom line is,
when you come, no rough and tumble.
Don’t let his pulse beat fast
or his ankles swell.
Roll up his shirtsleeves. Hold him close.
Leave the black newsprint
on his fingers—he’s an old New Yorker,
weaned he tells us, on the Times.
Death, when you kiss him,
gentle him with Gershwin.
Offer him a bowl of cherries.
Tell him he was larger than life, that
he¹ll be remembered only on
happy occasions and
those who could, loved him well.
Death, when you come,
bring angles and kippered herring.
We’ll let the shareholders know
He has always said, au revoir but not goodbye.