We Spoke of Death
like we knew something of dying
but then we were there—pinched-
silent spans, the scans, the waiting
rooms and infusion centers, watching
a bag drip empty into him under the hum
of hospital fluorescence. I fumbled
for the words to soothe our father when
I was alone and holding him and he’d been
on hospice too long. How unremarkable
that last breath can be, near indiscernible,
so I wasn’t sure of when, exactly,
and had to guess at a time for the paperwork.
going shin-bone thin, crepe flesh and terror
on chemotherapy. That Sunday in April
we wailed wolflike and I knew it, the wailing,
was because we don’t have faith
in any sort of heaven. I said I would stay
by her bed to watch the men load her body
into the bag. I remember the low growl,
tooth by tooth, of a slow-pulled zipper.
Through her open windows, I watched
the jacaranda’s paper purple flowers
fall pinwheeling in the breeze.
was simple—gingham dresses and ballet
recitals, rag dolls with yarn hair. The first time
the training wheels came off, an empty
church lot, my knee-padded knees and Dad
jogging alongside with arms ready-wide
in case I tumbled. A father’s hand for squeezing
with all my tender might as the doctor stitched
my knife-sliced palm. Two parents dumb with love,
the haven they built around and overhead
so we felt no bite of hail, no blizzard burn.
Only now, bare and holding desperate
to each other under a wide, wicked sky
do I see what sheltered us was always them.