Death and War

On the last car of a late night N train
I asked Death how it managed
to move so quickly
during wars.

“I’m not sure why,” Death answered,
“but ever since Hiroshima
my skates glide faster
over the cool Earth.”

I asked whether it was possible
to tell the difference
between a civilian
and a young draftee.

“No difference.”

I said from my own perspective
there was at least something different
about a playful child
struck by stray cluster bomb.

Death glared between my eyes.

I debated with Death about the merits
of a bullet, a car crash, & a baseball bat–
It confessed the first case
of pediatric AIDS

had almost bounced back & shocked Death
to death.

Approaching the last stop, I asked
whether it ever thought,
despite a difficult economy,
to look for an easier job.

Death laughed & pointed to the front page
of today’s New York Times.
“Watch your step, E. Katz,
but don’t make it obvious.”

ELIOT KATZ is the author of three books of poetry, including Unlocking the Exits (Coffee House Press). He is poetry editor of the online politics quarterly, Logos and has just guest-edited a “Beat Bush Issue” of Long Shot literary journal. He can be reached at