THE LONG TERM ABOUT TO TERMINATE
He doesn’t rest or sleep,
merely occupies that hospital bed.
Same with his brain, his body.
They’re just death’s waiting rooms.
Our bewilderment is contagious.
Is this really our father?
Conversations with dad lately
have been like twisting and turning the radio dial
and merely cranking up the static.
Our mother says he’s been reliving his childhood.
And he’s taken to singing nursery rhymes.
“Ding! Dong! Dell!” is not what we came to hear.
Sadly, she’s not much better.
But she knows our names at least,
even if, from time to time,
she connects them to the wrong face.
But she insists, in heaven, it will be different.
They’ll be together, in their prime,
and remembering every last detail.
So, to her, he’s a date in the future.
To we kids, he’s a presence,
so like him and yet so unalike,
but enough of him still alive
to block our better memories from kicking in.
And he makes me conscious of my own vulnerability,
how life was not designed to hold together
the way I wish it to.
Not in the long term, at least.
And he’s at the very end of that long time,
one ruinous breath, one discredited heartbeat away
from the obituaries.
His dying is ruining it for the living.
The more he forgets, the more we don’t want to know.
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Midwest Quarterly, Poetry East and North Dakota Quarterly with work upcoming in South Florida Poetry Journal, Hawaii Review and Roanoke Review.