Zero-sum waiting game


 
They say a watched pot never boils. And pasta doesn’t cook in the 8 minutes they say it does on the box. Forget about my oven. Add a half hour or more to every cooking time mentioned in a recipe, any recipe.
 
My oven is old as is the rest of my house and the inhabitants in it. My children are now 21 and 18 (in a matter of days)–older children, not grade schoolers any more. And their parents’ late fifties make them older parents. And my parents, who had me when they were in their early twenties, are old. My father will turn 83 in a month, and my mother won’t live out the month. Though younger than my father by four years, she’s older than us all. Her demented body attacked her and made her old.
 
I’m awaiting her death. She breathes laboriously, with her whole body. Her lungs can’t do it alone any more. She needs to breathe with her belly, once ballooned with sweets now shrunken down into her spine. The hospice nurse says this belly barely breathing is yet another sign of her “transitioning.” I tell the caretaker to give her morphine. She doesn’t look like she suffers but just in case. She’s tired of living.
 
I wait. I watch her chest rise and fall. She doesn’t open her eyes any more. Her hands have begun to swell, turning her fingertips purple. Weak kidney function. Soon, maybe tomorrow, she’ll forego all food and water, her body turning on itself for a little peace, just a last bit of peace, for fuck’s sake, mercy, mercy, please peace. She’s waiting–and we too wait, watching her wait.

 

image source/pixabay

Fall of Us


That familiar hum inside and out. 

The thrumming TV static-snow blustering my brain 

like when I slid down a steep mountain backward on my ass, 

the board strapped to my boots kicking up torrents of snow 

coating my eyes and nose as I plummeted blindly 

facing only where I came from. 

That happened then for this very day–teleported.

Today’s that cold-faced day.

 

The snap-to-it chill smacks mightily, 

your face-skin taut with expectation, 

braced to ward off the front, 

the sting of knowing you could trip, 

lose your step and your knees buckle, 

your bones splinter and your ankle crack. 

Something tragically foretold unbeknownst to you, 

the usual chaos lurking out there along your life’s line. 

To feel that approaching crisis is to live.

 

But only on days like these, 

wedged between enough and not enough 

and itch and scratched. 

Our clothes are fresh but our visions stale, our breath coffee rotten. 

These days smell like winter kill. 

But it’s only the dying fall when crockpot lamb-stew and mulch 

pepper muddy moods built for cutting, 

crying into dust and hanging amulets.

 

Her neck exposes naked-ruddy latticed vines, 

burnt and creased in spider legs enfolded, 

smothered and feathered like aortic-bony leaves, 

en-sleeving jugular flush–

as if the world pumped incessantly 

in syncopated gurgles, 

muffled to the dull roaring hum.