What might one write in a poem for Death?
An essay on the peace found in the grave,
a dietary plan addressed to worms,
or praise for the deceased, that one might drink
a toast to, lying quietly in the coffin,
features solemn as if just asleep?
Or should one see instead to one's own sleep
and, in that way, attempt to forestall death,
through healthy habits thus avoid the coffin,
through good eating cheat the waiting grave
and at the same time deprive food and drink
to nature's creatures, the honest lowly worms?
But yes, who of us sheds a tear for worms
that, even as we, must at times find sleep
and at times wake, must breathe and eat and drink,
and as we also end their days in death,
to stretch themselves in their own worm-sized graves,
although, unlike us, probably lacking coffins?
Is that the difference then, the expense of a coffin
that shows we're civilized, while lowly worms
go naked, naturally to their own graves,
and, while we like to speak of eternal sleep
and callings home, I wonder at worms' deaths
what lesser beings find in them food and drink.
But, ah, this is a wake and so we drink
and gather prayerfully around the coffin,
paying in that way respect to Death,
yet through embalming still seek to cheat worms
of what is their due, pretend still it's just sleep
that keeps the deceased lying in their graves.
And one more toast let's offer to the grave,
the yawning pit whose thirst defies mere drink,
whose future claim for us disturbs our sleep
as, all too soon, our beds will be the coffin,
flesh will be no more than food for worms,
and so ourselves be servants of fell Death.
This sleep is longest that is in the grave
and death for any is a bitter drink,
the coffin's treasure at last food for worms.