The radiographer and I meet for the first time

A long time ago
I was not afraid of death.
We had not met. He lived
over there, at a distance,

and if I heard news of him
it was news of a stranger, an other,
whose intentions did not touch mine.
Friends could join him and I grieved

but without a deep understanding
that one day he would want me too,
for I held surely to the idea
that he was somewhere else:

and though I might see him
ambling down the road
dressed in black, encumbered
with a pruning hook, I could

step aside, confident, even arrogant,
and watch him pass.
It is different now – now that
we have been introduced.

It was not the ordinary tale of moth or rust,
nor the sudden train crash,
the plunge from the ledge,
nor the blow on the head in the dark alley.

He simply waited. And one day
he lifted his hood and looked at me
and his gaze made its way into the blood.
Now my body is his dominion.

The skin no longer springs back on waking;
the heart hops to his command;
the mind turns away from hard thought;
the loins are not equal to the desire.

I do not want cold coins on my eyes.
I do not want to go into the fire
or descend into the earth, the darkness,
the lid screwed shut. I rail, I howl

but silently. We look again at the screen,
at my small obedient skeleton,
its fragile bones in black and white.
The radiologist will send you an appointment.

Beatrice Garland

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