I watch you lean over your father.
The acrid smell of ammonia
seeps from his body
and I keep to the far side of the room,
but you lean in,
your ears to his lips,
as he croaks out a coded message
from a cancer-ridden throat.
It is the barest of requests,
all that's left of thought patterns already
drifting to far shores:
He has to say it three times
before you understand
but when you do,
you quickly rush to comply,
bringing the glass to his lips,
cupping the back of his head in your hand.
Calm now, he settles back down,
allowing himself to rejoin that nether world
he has inhabited these three days.
You sit quietly, saying nothing.
But I know you are praying
for another request,
so you can
As I watch, this love of yours
strikes me dumb.
In this moment I see clearly
the fiber of the man I have married.
You give yourself over to the thing that
must be done
not out of duty
but out of gratitude.
And as I leave to go home
to our six-year-old son,
I see you, once again, leaning in,
cooing: ...What, Dad, what?
[Published in Into the Teeth of the Wind, April/May 2000]