The hospice nurse was shaving his slack jaw when we arrived. Unresponsive
was the word she had used. His body was a still plank on the narrow bed.
He gulped deep seismic breaths, three minutes apart. My brother brushed his hair.
Because I knew hearing was the last to go, I said the necessary—we’re here Dad,
you’re not alone. A corner of his gown was stained red; liquid morphine, not blood.
We took turns dabbing a wet sponge to his lips.
What else did the room contain? One black leather Dopp kit
he’d had all our lives, the zipper broken. A nail file and two shoe horns,
a few unfamiliar shirts and a belt piled on a chair. How lonely he must have been.
I recalled him, years earlier, reciting Pound’s lines, gesturing with vehemence
and agreement: What thou lovest well remains, the rest is dross.
This is my inheritance; fury and a covenant of words.
We drove home through the icy grid of streets—November unrelenting.
The nurse called at midnight—He’s gone, she said. Did you want to see him?
No, we agreed. We’d seen all he could give.
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