Could be any day now,
waiting for that last breath and a peek,
an opening, of glazed orbs once blue.
Wanting him to stay forever
even though his body laughs at me.
Each consuming cell eager for his parts;
each consuming cell seeking malice against him.
Time rips away
as cafeteria food tears apart my stomach.
I churn altogether with labored breaths we share –
One, two… three, four… neither of us ready.
I hunger for a smile from ragged ends of lips,
holding a crushed pastry in my hand and looking
on the first man I ever loved.
Down sterile hallways and up to floor three,
past gleaming instruments waiting for purchase,
where days ago he inched forward, struggled, bending,
working at leaving there –
Twists and pulls and penicillin and Jello.
“Getting out of here tomorrow.”
Yet room 3220 never released him.
Eighty-two years, some tattered, some fulfilled,
his face before an enchantment of warmth.
I kiss him and his cheeks dampen and he cannot hear me
because the whispers devour him in such a small room,
poised to yank grandfather away from me.
I yell, surprising myself, worried about his safekeeping.
And they tell me the angels’ surround him.
But I fear giving him over to strangers
and question everything then, right then,
while mourners touch him, all eyes able, all mouths perfunctory motions
Of grief and despair that only I should share with only him.
And these angels… are they good enough
to take his hands turning blue,
and his second-hand hearing aids?
At three a.m. I cringe at my own suspicions
and with the fifth breath I believe in that place, for him,
anything (even that) I will believe, for him.
His prayers are mine as long as the pain ceases,
though my angels are morphine and the twelve-hour shifts
of Margaret and Sam and Betty,
who have known him three days and call him “sweetheart”.
Copyright © Melissa Schwartz