A wonderful poem about an old, dying man recognizing he is dying before any one else in the family will admit it. He wants them to help him die--a kind of family consensus on euthanasia, which he seems to control. After much family discussion, they agree to help him by giving him enough pills to "put him to sleep." He jokes with his family as they assist his dying: "On the day it would happen, the old man would be funny again: wolfing down handfuls of pills, 'I know this'll upset my stomach,' he'd say."


This 20-line poem is cast in C. K. Williams' distinctive style: a long, flat, discursive line, emulating the rhythm of ordinary speech. This is an easily accessible literary introduction to euthanasia and assisted suicide. It presents a narrative of the dying man's experience, rather than an abstract moral argument.


First published: 1991 (The New Yorker, April 29).

Primary Source

A Dream of Mind


Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Place Published

New York