Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts
  • Home
  • About
  • Archive
  • Bio Notes
  • Bookshelf
  • Contents
  • Submit
SHJ Issue 18
Spring 2018

Waiting for the Scythe

by Tamara Madison

She’s got 93 years on that body. It still works,
mostly. It needs a brace on one leg (Consult
a neurologist next time you slip a disc!)
but it gets around with the help of a purple walker
with zebra stripes. The brain still works most
of the time, especially with the right

She’s going to donate this body to science:
the 93 year-old heart that hasn’t always
done the right thing; the overactive digestive tract;
the eyes that have seen so much with their
20-40 vision; the vocal chords that have told jokes,
sung arias in five languages and spoken with authority
even upon ignorance; the bony hands that painted
all the paintings that hang on her walls.
She’s pretty sure the Grim Reaper is on his way.
She’s been waiting for him for years now.
“What use am I here? Why am I still alive?”

She’s in bed right now in a purple nightgown,
waiting. I tell her, “If you really want him to come,
play hard to get! If you keep throwing yourself at him,
he’ll never come.” And every time he does come by
he takes a look and says, “Nah, not this time.”
Maybe he’s saving her—not for last, for of course
there is never a last. Maybe he’s saving her
for that one day when he’ll be sure she’s the right one;
he’ll drop his scythe and gather her into his arms:
white limbs and silver hair, purple nightgown
rippling in the wind.


—Honorable Mention, the Steve Kowit Poetry Prize 2017; first published in the San Diego Poetry Annual 2017-18 (Garden Oak Press, February 2018) and appears here with permissions from the publisher and the poet


SHJ Issue 18
Spring 2018

Tamara Madison

is the author of two collections of poetry, Moraine (2017) and Wild Domestic (2011), and a chapbook, The Belly Remembers (2004), all from Pearl Editions. Her work has appeared in A Year of Being Here, Cadence Collective, Chiron Review, Nerve Cowboy, and Your Daily Poem. Two of her poems were featured on Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac.

A native Californian who was raised on a citrus farm in the Coachella Valley, she has also lived many other places, including Europe and the former Soviet Union, where she spent 15 months in the 1970s. She has two grown children and teaches French and English at a public high school in Los Angeles.

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury