W.D. Ehrhart
All About Death

You don’t want me to tell you about death,

but I’m going to tell you anyway:

it smells bad. It gets into your nostrils

and just sits there, stinking up everything.

It won’t go away.  Death creeps up on you

when you’re least expecting it, even when

you can see it coming a mile away,

and rips your heart out through your throat and leaves

an empty place in your life you can’t fill

with memories or exercise or wads

of sterile gauze, and walks away laughing.

Or maybe just slips out under the door

and floats away like mist dissipating

before sunlight on an autumn morning.

Death minds its own business and everyone

else’s, too.  Death does a little jig,

then lobs a grenade into your kitchen,

but it’s only a dud.  What a joker,

you think, just before it explodes.  Death feels

sorry for nothing and no one.  Death feels

nothing at all. Death drives an SUV

with a husband and two kids in Gladwyne,

loses control, crosses the median

plows head-on into everyone sooner

or later, takes out a mortgage and then

skips town without paying a penny back.

Death takes a holiday, but not today.

Not tomorrow, either.  Maybe next week,

but don’t bank on it.  My mother-in-law

died twenty five years ago, but my wife

still cries out in her sleep for her mommy.

Sometimes my wife isn’t even asleep.

Found In Volume 35, No. 03
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  • W.D. Ehrhart
W.D. Ehrhart
About the Author

W.D. Ehrhart teaches English and history at The Haverford School, and his most recent book is The Madness of it All: Essays on War, Literature and American Life (McFarland, 2002).