What to Expect When You’re Expiring

1.
On the telephone.
On so many phone calls.
In particular, the first one.
When her voice registers like a dial tone.
Call your home phone number to hear her voice again.
Sob for the answering machine.

2.
Do not cry over food,
over drink.
Cry into the mirror
Watch your silhouette shrink.
The part you have lost,
let it cease to remain metaphor.
Starve it into existence.
Remember,
Your public display of unrequited affection.
Your moth eyes glowing toward a dying flame.
Your prayer of self starvation.
None of it will change a thing.

3.
So go ahead,
Take your mind off things.
Go grocery shopping.
Focus on the cans of chickpeas in aisle
I mean, really focus.
Breathe in deep.
Give up immediately
You never liked oxygen much, anyway.
Collapse, slowly.
Let your shoulders fall first.
Smack your palms against the price tags
Clasp your fingers to the shelf.
Feel your knees give out.
Focus.
Count.
How many cans of black beans are still left?
Desperate, Dig your nails into the red sticker of a discount
Claw at the adhesive
As you descend, as it tears.
Stare up at the rows of cans,
Decide you sort of like it here.

4.
In the car,
Preferably when on a long drive to somewhere Nowhere
Anywhere that requires empty highways and moonlight.
Oh, the glory of it
Oh, the wind, the sky
Drive away from the sunset.
Don’t look back.
Drive in to a thunderstorm, the rattle of raindrops
Heavy on the rooftop,
Relentless
Terrifying yet seemingly appropriate.
Drive under an overpass and
Just for a moment.
It stops.

Realize, that’s what her embrace is. Was.

5.
In New York City,
stand in awe of its beauty.
Of all its spilled coffee.
Of the missed connection
on the subway.
Cry into the boxes and bags you took on your journey
Gasp at the gorgeous of it, even the worst of it.

Outside your grandfather’s apartment, in the rain.
It has soaked through your coat.
Your shirt.
Call your sister Emily and tell her.
I am standing in my first real new york city thunderstorm.
I can see her.
I can see mom.

6..
Leaning over your kitchen sink.
Something about the washing away of things
Brings it out in people-the sobbing
The pruned fingers of reality.
It brings it out in you, too.
Not that you have energy to wash a damn thing.
Namely, your hair.
So, when the neighbors offer to help.
Decline,
<em>that is so very sweet of them to offer. </em>
Wash away the bowls of food she wont eat anymore.

7.
On the first of the hard days.
The nurse from hospice arrives. She is an angel.
Her laughter the sound of bells.

She will give you little pamphlets
Systematically designed to explain
The stages,
The symptoms.
The best ways to manage pain.
The exponential rate of decay
<em>What to expect when you’re expiring.</em>

The well of sorrow within your bones spills
The angel helps you clean it off the tile.
She shows you the proper way to slice a mango.
It will be the last thing your mother eats.
The pamphlets did not warn you.

8.
Grief is not a cycle.
It is a rolling ball,
Followed by a running child.

You have made it toThe final days. Her skin is blotchy, her breathing is raspy.
On and off, flickering.
Your handbook tells you this is the end of things.
The ringing of telephones.
Loved ones crowd Into her bedroom, whispering.
Any moment now she’ll be gone.
Minutes stretch like days when counted out in drops of morphine.
They wash a setting sun across the evening.

You fall asleep, miraculously.
She waits until the morning.
Your brother wakes you.
You find your friend Maddy collapsed in the hallway,
Her face in her hands.
Her palms spit steam.

You know she’s gone.

In a spare moment when she is alone
Whisper, Check if any of her is still hiding in thereCut off a lock of her hair.
Hold her and tell her to just let go.

Now it’s your turn to.

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