Mrs. Szmykleszczwladeczeryniecki's Last Day (1955)

She praises his gift of a tin cat, japanned
and bejeweled and black like her cat at home;
and all the while nurses, unarmed and helpless,

most from Ireland, ask her to drink water
as if that could extinguish the fire in her lungs.
Outside, sunlight runs up and down an orange park
like a child. Students gulp down hot dogs

on the medical school stairs, small against
the brickwork, cold in the shadow of marble,
imagining new weaponry, supplicants as before
and as always, the last friend to those in pain.

She refuses morphine: mists of cheap perfume.
She's not really dying, she says: she's being born
into the world of the dead.

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