May 05, 2006

Friday Poetry Blogging

This is a poem about my sister-in-law, who died of breast cancer four years ago.

LAST RITE

I had been instructed not to touch,
one cold could kill her, that’s what they said,
obediently, I washed my hands, kept a distance,
which wasn’t hard, really, there had been
silence between us for so long, I sat in the stiff chair
near her hospital bed, we talked about her children
and mine, growing up so fast.

Her death did not creep
into any niche of the chatter,
but eight years of silence stretched its weight
into the room, pinning her to the bed, me to the chair,
then when it was time to say goodbye, she walked me
to the elevator and just before I got on,
she hugged me.

I said, like a catholic school girl, oh no,
we are not supposed to touch, and she shrugged,
smoothed the hospital gown against her bloated
body, she smiled, held me for a moment
with the same blue eyes her kids have,
she said, sometimes there are things
you have to do anyway.

13 comments:

liz said...

That is beautiful.

Phantom Scribbler said...

I really love this one.

Sue said...

So beautiful.

Poor Mad Peter said...

Yes.

RageyOne said...

Aww..what a happy & sad poem. Just lovely.

cloudscome said...

What a lovely poem. Thank you.

nancy said...

That made me cry, both for happy and sad reasons.

Pilgrim/Heretic said...

jo(e), that's wonderful.

Deb said...

Wow. Just wow, wow, wow, wow. So powerful.

Friday Mom said...

Beautiful...

Katie said...

Lovely and powerful!

Mona Buonanotte said...

Your ability to capture a lifetime of emotion in several simple paragraphs...oh, I adore this!

ArticulateDad said...

Beautiful and sad. My father died, of prostate cancer, at home in his rented hospital bed, because that's where he wanted to be. The week before he died, the health care workers who came to the house announced that he was near the end. He had many times told me about my stepmother's passing, about how he had gathered all the loved ones to come say goodbye. I knew that is what he wanted, so I gathered as many of them as I could, including his sister whom he hadn't spoken to in 15 or 20 years, and two of her kids.

Two days before the end, one of my cousins, her baby in her arms came into my dad's room. Then was the last time he interacted with any of us. I asked how he was feeling, and he replied "lousy" (he hadn't said a word for days). I asked him if he wouldn't smile for the baby, to which he produced the most marvelously awkward grimace. I'll never forget that last smile. It was his love, your sister-in-law's hug. Somethings, you have to do anyway.