My aunt –
(“Marc!” [tap, tap tap]) –
tapped at the bedroom window
of my Mum’s house
(Mum’s and Dad’s)
“We think it’s time.”

…day four, perhaps…

And half abed and half asleep,
half a night more than
a half-week without,
woke me up to take me
back to the hospital.

Not time.

Dad said, from his hospital bed,
Or recliner? (memory has the chair)
“Family’s important.”

Words from a dying father –
blood drawn from a dead man’s lips –
are no basis for doctrine.

Morphine sleep
waiting for a big heart
– a literal big heart,
an athletic bastard –
no bastard, no father –
like us all perhaps – – –
to stop.

He showed us his genitals,
as a joke, showed them to
another aunt, cathetered,
looking, as he said,
like a small
bag of walnuts…

…too much.

but my aunt laughed
aunts are always kind
or is it just me?

This was day five
or six,
of ten.

Not time.

Did I say
he’s dying?

I did, I forgot, I forget
that things in my head
aren’t in others’.

They let in his dog –
nurse leading Big Al
like a service dog,
tumbling corridor plants –
illegal or, you know,
“against policy”,
like it mattered –
as a joke.

Another nurse said
that she could get
his wedding ring off –
we couldn’t –
known for her skill.
That was after.

After Mum, most silent,
most constant, and Dad,
renewed vows, the priest,
his eyes closed, palms raised,
no words of
medicinal value…
I didn’t hear.

I’ve a photo.

Is that appropriate?

At night I lay on the lino
next to his chair,
hospital dark hours,
watching sheers billow,
counting the time
between flashes and thunder.
Falling asleep.

We watched him breathe,
of course,
and once he stopped –
we held ours,
he opened an eye,
said, “Fooled ya” –
as a joke.

What do I want you to take from this?

On the tenth day he died,
“surrounded by loved ones”.
It wasn’t a moment
but the sound of the tingsha
he bought to adorn
the pain of his treatment.

There is no end,
only a space where you know
it has ended.

We buried him
behind the dunes,
a mound of sand,
into it we pressed our hands,
and stems of flowers.

A sea change, the wind blows,
rabbits creep from the bushes
at night.

I put the skull of a petrel –
lost at sea, washed up,
half a migration –
over his heart.

Nothing is there anymore.

2 thoughts on “Migrations

  1. Without any overstatement, this poem conveys the swirl of emotions from laughter to fear to love and grief that surround the death of a parent. Brief images like “tumbling corridor plants” and “a mound of sand,/into it we pressed our hands” are so vivid that I’m there with the family, not one of them but an onlooker who has been invited in.

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