I met a man with death in his throat.
He had to talk around it, raspy and soft.
Words twisted around half a tongue.
He had just come back from the mainland
where they had tried to kill it with radiation.
He had lain next to another veteran
and they had painfully whispered to each other
how much more frightening this was than war.
Yet still, his death was there
like an invisible fist.
Each word, each breath, squeezing past it
measuring out the remainder of his life
a mouthful at a time.
He knew, yet he was calm.
This wasn’t so bad, he said.
It was just waiting, looking at the horizon for the dawn.
It didn’t scare him now.