In her own words...

"Il a Trouvé la Mort"


In French death is feminine,
A sort of mother or sister,
Someone you had lost track of,
Almost forgotten about.
Years and years gone by
Without a sign from her.
Nothing but her artful way
Of not forgetting you.

Dressed in bones, la Mort
Is still depicted as
A male without a member —
Necessarily, since verge
Is resolutely girlish
And not to be confused
With hers, a boyish one
(Thus proving her authority).

The sexes! Ever playful or
Dead serious? Could it be
That hers, being masculine,
Guides entry lined with maleness
To a shy but comely guest
Who's not altogether sure
She-he wants to go there?
It's all so equivocal.

Maybe for the French
Such a mix-up lays to rest
Once and for all old notions
Of who's who, what goes where.
It's clear their language begs
The question charmingly

If not for us, for them,
And ferrets out this fact:

Neither him nor her,
The goddess-god, delicately
Playing hide-and-seek
In order to surprise
Is only death, la Mort,
Who makes no promises
Except sometimes to be there
Across the street — see her?


About this work

“Il a Trouvé la Mort” was first published in The Gettysburg Review, Vol. 13, no. 2 (Summer 2000), pp. 292-293.  It is also included in Dorothea Tanning's book, A Table of Content: Poems, New York: Graywolf Press, 2004, pp. 25-26, and may not be reprinted without the publisher's permission.