Death's Head

Original Text: 
Phyllis Gotlieb, The Works: Collected Poems (Toronto: Calliope Press, 1978): 87.
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
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. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
Publication Notes: 
Ordinary, Moving. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1969.
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
Special Copyright: 

Copyright The Works: Collected Poems by Phyllis Gotlieb Calliope Press 1978