18: January 2018 #10 - A Secret I’ve Said Three Times and Still Feel As If I’ve Never Told

Authored by Elijah Patterson

A Secret I’ve Said Three Times and Still Feel As If I’ve Never Told

by Elijah Patterson


I appointed myself the guardian of his breath.
This man, nearly a stranger to me in eulogy,
rasping and gurgling his final days
while I sat at the head of his bed reading
      (a good tribute)
      and my grandmother smoothed his quilt
            and asked if I was ready,
                  and if I was strong.

When she left to wash the same dishes again
      (how important it is to be useful,
      how important it is to be needed);
I apologized to him
for her speaking over his head
as if he were not there.

Hours pass, and positions change,
our bodies follow the hands of the clock,
chairs in the house stops on the dial.
We rotate from his bed,
to couch and kitchen and bedroom–.
And then,
across the room,
I heard it–
      the silence.

He’s quiet now.

            I said, after a longer pause
            than I have ever admitted,
            these three times I told.

And his son said


      And then–


We walked to his father’s hospital bed,
                              (seven paces).
He pressed his fingers to his father’s silent throat
feeling for the rubbery tube of the carotid,
opened his own mouth–

and then–

      a gasp–

            –bright, upright, lungs full,
            teeth a decrepit grey fence
            with its gate swung open–

and then–

                a fall–.

And I spoke again to the shape of his ear:

            Didn’t mean to scare you.
            Just checking.

Even though I knew he couldn’t hear.