Death beds have been around for a long time. Ancient Greeks, Japanese monks, Medieval Christians, and tubercular Victorians all had opportunities to use them. Some folks were witty, some were slow, and some called for a priest when the time came. "And you and I, too, may lie on ours, / the vigilant family in a semicircle, / or the night nurse holding our hand / in the dark, or alone." We cannot avoid the death bed, but what we can hope for is "just at the end / a moment of pure awareness . . . . " [56 lines]


Have you ever thought about the history of death beds? This poem approaches the topic with a light, but resonant and sure, touch. It moves gradually from a great distance (the ancients) closer and closer to us. Suddenly, where we least expect it (in the middle of a stanza), the poem engulfs us--"you and I" look forward to lying on our own death beds, and expressing our own last hopes.

Primary Source

The Art of Drowning


Univ. of Pittsburgh Press

Place Published