His lungs like exhausted fishermen
drew in their glittering
catch of oxygen and his heart
called to the receding
tides of the blood.
His bony fingers
curled around mine.
I read from Mary Oliver

how the soul may be hard,
necessary, yet almost
nothing, how we all know
the sand is golden
under the cold
waves though our hands
can never touch it.

The hearing goes last,
the doctor said.

If you’re fortunate
this happens only twice,
as we have two parents,
and although a measured number
are called to bear the sorrow
of a child passing,
and although one spouse
outlasts the other,
all come in the end
to this day that is broken
in the middle, never to finish.

My heart glowed
like a well of clear water.
There are no words
for this communion,
this hope that his eyes,
turned from the
sunny branches outside,
could summon a vision
of his loved ones,
his wife of fifty years,
his sister dead in childbirth
before my time,
souls knowing already
this passage and awaiting
him in whatever form of glory
we the living
can conjure for them:
my brothers, me,
our children, all the others
still casting the nets of our breath,
still sifting the golden sands.

One time in his search
for love after my mother died
he told me it never ends.
But it does. On a broken day
the breath stops
and the cells gently fall asleep
and the soul, perhaps puzzled
by this coming to rest
of all the body’s small purposes,
rises and looks on the silence
and the dear souls drawn close
and the great hovering angels.

I sat alone with him
until two heavy men in
white shirt sleeves brought
a collapsible cart
and carried him down the dusty stairwell
into the light, his face still wearing
the mask of exhausted surprise.

He left us a sweet generosity
of spirit, to magnify
the golden light
we all carry inside,
and the complications
between parent and child,
one person and another,
the lost nerve-endings,
the thoughts never finished,
were carried away

and composed and dressed neatly
for our friends and neighbors
to say goodbye to
and rendered in the fire of the crematory
to a small box of ashes
to lie until the world is made anew
next to my mother’s remains
where the spring wind
blows the catkins and pollen
across the gray stones
and ants build
their tiny cities of dust.