Speak softly when you speak of death.
Let him come quietly,
Stealthily, unseen,
For in full voice
He turns thunder to a whisper
And freezes the blood.

Be still old man!
You looking fearfully
Over your shoulder;
Thinking that if you are quiet
He may not notice you
And will pass you by.

Quiet, young man!
Stop taunting him!
The times he misses
Confer no immunity.
Sneer if you like,
But quietly.

When I was young
I stared at him.
Now, in my middle years
He turned and looked at me;
I dropped my eyes.
I shall not stare again.

Ira Pilgrim, 1964

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