Near the End
Your skull is packed with razor thoughts, as Father is dying a horrible death, his camel chin, so tired of rising to meet your buzzard eyes. And yes, you have the power to take a papercut, turn it to rivers of blood. There’s a catheter bag taped to the hair on his leg. You know, when pouches of urine pull on the tube, it hurts much more. “I’ll empty it” is all I say. You’re busy with some young woman, bleached-fried hair, doing your nails—donning a silk-slick negligée–clearly the skin of a Python with those aging spots. Next she’ll dye your old coiffure, see if she can change the world. Yours, not his. I hate that fact.
You treat his dying as if it’s yours. He doesn’t deserve that Hell-made pickle of your tongue. None of us deserve your tongue. But go ahead, do what you do: tear down shrines, release the memories of lives that matter, toss them with that snotty tissue in the trash. When he’s gone, it’s free-fire zone. I have a mouth; I’ll use it then. Because of you, every step I make to hold the conch shell of my father’s hand is a field of mines. I’m the one who scratches the genie’s itching head, rubs his shoulders with all the power in my wrists and fingers, in my arms, as he quietly reads the news. Do you know your sour words are bile and hairballs in his throat? I make him crêpes for breakfast when you refuse to switch on morning coffee pots, but manage to open a gallon of scotch, telling someone watching you drink from a bed stand cup: Oh, it’s only apple juice, you say. And we pretend that we believe to save him from the whipping post.
I hate the thought of my father making love to a woman built of shale and splintered wood. That heavy clay horse in the pompous living room you never use but had to have—like six mink coats—will do just fine. I could come up from behind, knock at the door of a head filled up with pharmacies you never needed from the start. And you. You over there—the one with eyes glazed over same as donut holes, the one who will not hold me when he’s gone—I’ll bet you’re stealing his morphine pills.
It’s over now. I stand beside him, stumbling over syllables. “A Love Poem to My Father” is the piece I wrote. My wrist too weak to hold the frame, a hospice nurse helps me out, reaching underneath to steady the paper pinned by glass, now hit by cold November winds. She knows these cracking cricket sounds will live forever in my voice. You are screaming, Get that body off my bed! I wish it were some bullshit job of paraphrase. Where’s that horse? A thick, black zippered body bag is on a stretcher telling me there’s no tomorrow.
Janet Buck is a seven-time Pushcart Nominee & the author of four full-length collections of poetry. Buck’s most recent work is featured in The Birmingham Arts Journal, Antiphon, Offcourse, PoetryBay, Poetrysuperhighway, Abramelin, The Writing Disorder, Misfit Magazine, Lavender Wolves, River Babble, The Danforth Review & other journals worldwide. Her latest print collection of verse, Dirty Laundry, is currently available at all fine bookstores. Buck’s debut novel, Samantha Stone: A Novel of Mystery, Memoir & Romance, was released courtesy of Vine Leaves Press in September, 2016. Janet lives & writes in Southern Oregon—just hours away from Crater Lake, one of the seven wonders of the world. For links, announcements, and interviews with Janet, visit her new website: www.janetibuck.com