LAST VISIT

He lies supine

on top of the covers,

hands on his belly,

beard trimmed,

eyes closed,

the rise of his chest

suggesting sleep,

so I watch him

breathe for awhile.

Usually when I touch

his knee, slowly

he opens his eyes

and says, “Hey, Buddy,

it’s good to see ya.”

But today at my touch

he almost jumps

off the bed,

and I laugh,

both of us scared

half-to-death. I say,

“Sorry, Ed.

I didn’t mean to

give you a heart attack.”

“That’s okay,” he says,

his eyes clouded

milky-blue. When

I take his hand,

he gives me a firm grip.

We shake and squeeze

and shake some more.

He holds on, won’t let go . . .

which is unusual

for him. Often he gives

the fish-fingers, limp,

barely a response,

but today his hand

seems to beg me to stay.

I ask if he can see me,

and he says he can,

but his eyes look

blank to me, far away.

We talk about friends

and poems. I ask

who else he’s seen

or heard from lately.

“Not a soul,”

his standard response,

so I tell him I’m going

to Washington D.C.

for a poetry gig

with Gimp O”Leary.

“That should be fun,”

he says—deadpan.

His eyes close

as I ramble on

about poetry and me.

He comes and goes,

riding the tide of

my pauses and

inflections. Finally

I tell him I’d better leave

and let him get back

to that dream

I plucked him from.

He smiles and agrees,

takes my hand again,

a slight squeeze.

When I turn back

at the door to catch

another glimpse of him

before I go, I note

how good he looks:

resting, clean and groomed

like a corpse waiting

for a coffin. I can’t help

but smile at the irony

of the lunch tray

on the table next to him.

After all those tough

years—breakfast in bed—

Ed finally had room

service, and all the time

he needed to dream.

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