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Short poem

Phyllis Gotlieb (1926-)

Death's Head

              1at 3 a.m. I run my tongue
              2around my teeth (take in a breath)
              3(give out a breath) take one more step
              4approaching death. my teeth are firm
              5and hard and white (take in a breath)
              6incisors bite and molars grind
              7(give out a breath) the body lying
              8next to mine is sweet and warm
              9I 've heard that worms (take in a breath)
            10don 't really eat (give out a breath)
            11the coffin meat of human kind
            12and if they did I wouldn't mind
            13that 's what I heard (take in a breath)
            14(and just in time) I think it 's all
            15a pack of lies. I know my flesh
            16will end in slime. the streets are mean
            17and full of thieves. the children in
            18the sleeping rooms (give out a breath)
            19walk narrowly upon my heart
            20the animal beneath the cloth
            21submerged rises to any bait
            22of lust or fury, love or hate
            23(take in a breath) my orbic skull
            24is eminently frangible
            25so delicate a shell to keep
            26my brains from spillage. still my breath
            27goes in and out and nearer death

            28and yet I seem to get to sleep


24] frangible: easily broken.

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Copyright The Works: Collected Poems by Phyllis Gotlieb Calliope Press 1978
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Phyllis Gotlieb, The Works: Collected Poems (Toronto: Calliope Press, 1978): 87.
First publication date: 1969
Publication date note: Ordinary, Moving. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1969.
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: 2002
Recent editing: 1:2002/11/3

Rhyme: occasional couplets

Other poems by Phyllis Gotlieb