Sunday, October 23, 2011

How to Die

This poem first appeared in the Wisconsin Review.
[This poem has indents, which I can't figure out how to insert here!]

My father taught me first.
His fingers
weak, he instructed
my aunt step by step how
to replace the frayed
cord on the television.
That night,
he walked step by
step, we never knew
how, into the backyard and
pulled the trigger

Keith taught me next. He
apologized as his thin hand
lifted to wipe the spittle from
his chin. He worried the doctors
were ignoring the man in the
next bed. I tried to tell him
it was all right to die. My words
twisted in circles as his fingers
stroked the back of my hand. He
held tight until New Year’s Day.

My mother taught me last.
In a coma, not a Hollywood
coma, she waved her arms
in circles and talked to the angels,
arguing her way into
She backed out of
the tunnel when my brother
wailed, lingered a last few
hours though we daughters
begged her death-rattling husk
to let go.

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