I heard Loreena, the hospice aid
who had shaved my dad three days a week
for a month, say in a quiet, intimate voice
It’s okay, Rick. It’s time to go be with your wife.
She meant my mother, who died
around this time two years ago.
He’d struggled for breath four days,
had a see-through oxygen mask
over his classical nose and bluing lips.
Hearing is the last thing to go,
Deb, the hospice nurse told me, stethoscope
wrapped at her neck like a snake,
she the snake handler. So I told how lucky
I felt about the abundance of time we’d had
together the past two years, time
we hadn’t found since he drove me back
to college early Monday mornings
on his way to work in San Francisco. He knew
I was there touching his hand. Also willing
my own hand to stay open, open, let him go.
Loreena, with skill and wisdom, opened
his heart with the word wife, married 71 years,
and I saw him turn slightly toward that word,
reach out, and then he was gone.
AndréeGraveley is a poet, a peace activist, and a student of Jungian dream-work. She lives on an island in northern Wisconsin where she keeps a rustic cabin resort built by her grandparents. Her poems have appeared in Midwest Prairie Review, North Coast Review, Red Cedar Review, Verse Wisconsin, and WFOP Calendars.