Grandma is dying

t’s cold enough for tears to freeze on a cheek,
but the wind whips them from eyes faster than the frost can catch them.
Inside, it’s harder:
the woman with the happy dog on a green leash
stares,
frightened by such sadness in a too-public hallway.
Even thank-yous to the visiting nurse
come with terrible tears,
the wrecking of a calm facade
with all the force of a ten-ton ball swinging from a crane arm:
This old Victorian is coming down,
and soon.

The machine is breathing for her now,
pushing air into lungs
long atrophied by sallow, shallow chest.
The foundations are shaky
and liver-spotted,
swollen to grapefruits with blisters.
Laughter at a joke is wheezed out,
conversation carries caesuras,
and the mantra of slow breathing.

Her aide is impatient:
instruction takes too long,
she would rather be about her business
than follow an old woman’s instructions
who pauses every four words,
or every two
to make lungs and throat speak again.
Breath is labored.

The display outside the door has changed.
The Bible and candle are gone,
the little Christmas tree.
Instead there is a wreath
of plastic violets,
a plastic tub of plastic zinnias.
Grandma has not passed this door in a year;
the display no longer displays her tastes;
rather, it denies them.

Come swiftly, Lord Jesus,
kum by yah.
She is done with this place
and time,
she is done.
Make it easy,
Lord Jesus,
make it easy
she wants to see her husband again,
laughing in the springtime sun.

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