On his side,
Gaunt and white,
Pillow between his knees,
My father, the almost living.
With breathing tube,
With peeing tube,
With stomach feeding tube,
Watched over by blinking lights and tired nurses.
Scribbled on the wrinkled charts:
“Recurrent aspiration pneumonitis,
Spindle cell carcinomatosis, and
The insidious “medically resistant infection.”
His other son fought,
Raging against institutional care-takers,
Like George, against the dragging of feet,
The invisible reluctance,
The faceless, officious letters,
“This subscriber is no longer eligible for….”
That other insidious disease.
Fight, brother, fight
Against the lying,
The lack of trying, the denying,
The final dying.
Now, the perfection of death;
Who are we to interfere?
“His kidneys are failing.”
“His legs are numb.”
“His breathing is shallow.”
Now the foretold choking.
I hold his hand, still warm;
Life goes and cold calm comes,
Not a torrent, but gentle drip,
The flow and ebb,
Reversed from before his 87 years began.
The gift of death to the age-ridden man,
The miracle of death for the distracted eyes,
No longer following or seeing.
The gift of death comes
To his quiet face,
Smeared and faded like an old photo.
The beauty of silent machines
And empty tubes.
“He is gone.”
The perfection of ended life.
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