I saw you withering
before me, like I felt the air in my diaphragm build up slow
then fall shakily out of me.
I saw my grandmother wince
Put her hand to her mouth,
side-ways gripping this tiny Chaplain
who’s name I’d forgotten, the moment I heard it.
I saw my cousin staring deep into empty space, his nervousness illuminated
under harsh hospital lights. My uncle’s red tie screaming in this room of too tired eyes, wearing reddened faces from crying.
The fear of this reality bit at our ankles. We shifted in place, we talked about the Sox game. We dared each other to keep on pretending to carry on.
And most of all,
I saw you underneath piles of tubes.
Lain upon the bed a shattered man.
Shoulder blades peeking upward and out in what was poised to be
an eternal shrug.
Head hung, eyes fluttering, only held up in increments of straining. Straining to be part of this conversation about nothing. About your impending death.
Rounds of tears and silence
Rounds of nurses coming
Rounds of knowing
Propped up by a tank of air, a bag of liquid, a ton of pillows and the slow-burning will to live.
It’s hard to see the end coming when it’s around the corner. It’s hard to feel the truth when is rises up inside, hot tears and quivering words. Before you know it, you said what may be your last words to him. Before you know it you’re in an elevator, then a car, then you’re waking up and it’s months or years away. But you will still feel it- that hot sadness, that burning ache for that tiny space carved out in you, from when he gripped your hand so tightly and opened his eyes and stared into your face. His presence firmness so captivating, like my face held his only hope, like it was the only place for his big blue eyes to lay their path on. Like he is still looking at me. For answers. For a tomorrow. And I try to live like he’s watching. And I try tell myself he is.