Millie's Date

Abse, Dannie

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack
  • Date of entry: Mar-13-1997


With sedative voices we joke and spar around Millie's bed. An aged woman, "all skull," whose only child died at age 77, she cries, "Let me die, let me die!" From the midst of delirium or dementia, she remarks, "the Angels of Death survive forever."

The poet wonders whether some of these Angels "are disguised as vagrants, assigned / to each of us . . . . " One of them must be Millie's date, but where is he? "Has he lost his way, has he lost his mind?" The poet half-expects to find him on the street, begging, playing his violin.


Some old people just won't die. There's not much left of Millie, ravaged as she is by age and disease and "quiet now, in a valium doze," but it looks like Death has stood her up. In a fine poetic leap, the poet imagines Death as a beggar; anyone could win him over by putting two coins "as big as eyes" in his hat. This last line recalls the old tradition of putting coins on the eyes of corpses.

Primary Source

Sky in Narrow Streets


Quarterly Review of Literature

Place Published

Princeton, N.J.