Collecting bottles, tossing leftovers, taking out the garbage
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In the plane, on the way to my father’s deathbed,
I passed time looking for shapes in the clouds from above.
I found a billy goat, a hat, an old monk’s bearded face.
It was easy to forget where we were headed,
lost as I was in a child’s game played, gazing down, as an adult.
The cloud shapes rolled and shifted, caught in the tide
of a blood orange sunset.
In the hospital, my family found ways
to fill the breathless moments between each breath my father took.
There was time enough to sway on a tightrope,
perform a clumsy dance among the tubes and bottles,
notice how all of our faces had changed —
time enough for thirty things
before my father inhaled again.
On my return home, the cab from the airport
snaked through a neighborhood I’d never seen.
A light fog licked headlights and machine shops
like the one where my father spent most of his life.
I remembered him twelve years ago, at the age of seventy-seven,
hiking on Mount Hood. He balanced on a rock in the middle of a stream,
sore leg and all, pushed with his walking stick and launched,
flying and grinning, to the other side.
For a moment that memory made all other motion
seem petty. When a stoplight turned red,
the cabbie sighed impatiently. The street was still,
my hands were still and folded on my lap.
I said, “Go slow. No need to hurry.
We’re almost there.”