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Caught in Traffic

We’d strapped him to his bed for over a year,

Paid a fat, black woman to wear a white dress
Change his bedpan, and sit with him at night,
But when the bone white pigeon banked
Between the buildings in a pale twilight
The old man’s brain liquefied.

Foam, whose  bubbles reflected my face,
Bloomed on his lips as he swallowed his tongue.
It said 5:47 on the red crystal clock by the wet bar,
And his breath rattled in the room like some
Tired exhaust fan from the Roaring Twenties.

His wife was out shopping at Woolworths,
Or trying to sell something back to Cartiers.
The black nurse was downstairs flirting
With Desi the tap dancing doorman.
Prince the chauffeur buffed the black Lincoln
And wondered what he do when the old lady died.
My wife was teasing our toddler in the living room.
Everyone else was trying to get home from work.

Somewhere inside his skull the skinned nerves
Kept sending signals down his spine to his heart.
And I blotted his lips in that burnt orange room
As his arms flapped like a beached fish before
The fisherman brings down the club.

I turned from the bed, pulled up the beige blinds,
And gazed out the window wondering
Where the bone white pigeon had gone.
Then I called the Doctor’s number listening
To his wheezing until the call was answered.

“He’s dying,” I said to the man I’d never met.
“You should send an ambulance and a team
Of medics right now. He’s going. Going fast.”

The calm voice answered from far across town,
“He’s home. He’s been dead for a year, you know.
We just change the sheets and pay the nurses.
I can keep his body going as long — as long —
As long as you want. You need to tell me.
Look outside. How heavy’s the crosstown traffic?”

I looked down on a solid ribbon of oozing steel.
“Wedged,” I said. “Hardly moving at all.”

“Look at his eyes,” the voice said. I looked
Down into his eyes and they had no bottom.
“Who’s there?” the voice asked on the phone.

“No one I know,” I said. “No one at all.”
I held the phone and waited, looking out over Central Park.

“I’ll send an ambulance when you tell me,” he said.

The bone white pigeon came sweeping out of the light
And settled on the sill as calm as my breath in the room.

“Send them when you can,” I said. “No rush.
They’ll just get caught in traffic.”

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • March Hare January 3, 2019, 9:15 PM

    How poignant. The death of a parent, even when expected, is never easy.

  • Don January 4, 2019, 4:27 AM

    If you’re going to start building an anthology, start with that one. Superb.

  • ghostsniper January 4, 2019, 7:47 AM

    Death – it’s a process, not an event, some quicker than others.
    When is finality, the time when life is declared non-existent?
    For now, brain activity, or lack of.
    But in the event of brain death cell activity continues and within each cell is the blueprint of our life.
    Does that blueprint contain or memories and our personality, the essence of who we are?
    Unknown at this time. If it does, if each cell contains us, then I would imagine in the future a single cell might be reconstituted into the same person, complete. Imagine the wisdom and knowledge of an 80 year old man in the body of an infant. What would Thomas Jefferson, Galileo, and even Jesus think if reconstituted in the next century?

    Sounds like science fiction doesn’t it? Diving to the bottom of the ocean, traveling to the moon, and many other things were science fiction just 100 years ago. What will life be like in 100 years hence?

  • H January 4, 2019, 9:04 AM

    Dang, pretty close, that one. Odd that just this morning, I was reflecting on how long my parents had been gone. Mother almost a decade to the day later than my Father, and he just a few days before 9/11. Odder still that he went very much like this, except without the chauffeur and doorman, though, and we’d already had that chat with the doctor in advance……….R.I.P., Buss, so much you wouldn’t talk about but I’m grateful for what you would.

  • JiminAlaska January 4, 2019, 11:48 AM

    Having witnessed the passing of many and of course heading toward that myself, I think of the toast that someone raises at each and every Irish wake; He had a good run.

  • Anonymous January 10, 2019, 8:43 AM

    It’s hard when you feel deeply about circumstances but it makes for a richer experience.
    I wonder sometimes – if reincarnation where a thing, would those capable of seeing and feeling a wide range of emotions be more or less evolved?

  • DeAnn January 10, 2019, 8:45 AM

    🙄 that was my question. Previously your comment section has tagged me.