A Dance With Lady Death — For Tanith Lee

Jane Yolen

Not a slow waltz, not those two,
more a tango, turning
so quickly, as if faceting a diamond
between the chisels of their bodies.
The music crystalizes around them,
notes falling like rain, like snow, like hail
And still they dance.

If she could, after one final dip,
Tanith would have left Lady Death
soaking wet and breathless on the floor,
stalking off stiff-legged from the maze.
A standing ovation from the watchers
signals their wish that she be spared
for another dance at least.

But Death is no such easy metaphor.
The grave is long and wide and deep.
The end is no slumber. Still,
her stories wake us far into each night,
of mourning, a glass of something amber
on the bedside table, a drop trembling
on the lip’s edge. On the knife’s edge.

On life’s edge.


Jane Yolen is the author of over 370 published books including 10 books of poetry for adults. She has won two Nebulas, a World Fantasy Award, a Caldecott, three Mythopoeic awards, two Christopher Medals, a nomination for the National Book Award, the Jewish Book Award, the Kerlan Award, the Catholic Library’s Regina Medal, a nomination for the National Book Award, as well as six honorary doctorates. She was the first writer to win a New England Public Radio’s Arts & Humanities Award. Despite her many awards, she has this warning: Don’t go chasing fame. Just write. One of her awards set her good coat on fire.