Grace Paley






I had thought the tumors
on my spine would kill me but
the tumors on my head seem to be
extraordinarily competitive this week.

For the past twenty or thirty years
I have eaten the freshest most
organic and colorful fruits and
vegetables     I did not drink    I
did drink one small glass of red
wine with dinner nearly every day
as suggested by The New York Times
I should have taken longer walks but
obviously I have done something wrong

I don't mean morally or ethically or
geographically    I did not live near
a nuclear graveyard or under a coal
stack    nor did I allow my children
to do so    I lived in a city no worse
than any other great and famous city    I
lived one story above a street that led
cabs and ambulances to the local hospital
that didn't seem so bad and was
often convenient

                   In any event I am
already old and therefore a little ashamed
to have written this poem full
of complaints against mortality which
biological fact I have been constructed for
to hand on to my children and grand—
children as I received it from my
dear mother and father and beloved
grandmother who all
ah    if I remember it
were in great pain at    leaving
and were furiously saying goodbye