[An odyssey of a man in Hospice. Chapter one of many]
Life was good — and we still wondered
How many more times will a mother cry
Before the thunderclap beckons from some distant places
To soothe the wound of the living?
Inflicted by the dying —
Without concern, for time passes
And enters into the unspoken
Where time will pass no more.
Forever with us, for those who wish to be alone.
— For now, an elevator, a hall pass, a locked door opened with a magic button along the wall
And then – The Underworld.
Hell passes through the unreality.
So real, the life unimagined
That comes with death
And enters our world as a marauder
And leaves as a whisper of memories past.
Memorize the signs, for something is sacred.
Caretaker Plus – written on his hospital bed
No beeping – no more electronics
Just an IV and an old man
Much older than he should be
Curled up symmetry of form molting into the underworld.
Note the significance of form:
Bruised flesh from a fall only a week past
Concave outlines of his skull that reveal far too much humanity
Withered flesh, so eager to lose its grip
To let us go.
Eyes don’t wander. He looks around, but doesn’t see
Golden pills – red and blue and all things in between – anything to help him through this time, beyond a merciful
hand to guide him to his death – death is release – we cannot let go.
I say ‘let my people go!’
Beyond this point, he has already gone
There is no more for him in this world
Please, let him go.
Inhuman cries – turning in his bed, cleansed of filth — except the bit that matters
Words that make sense in purpose,
But not meaning – cries of no father or friend or brother
The moment is still with you – forever with you
Tainting the memory of things.
Friends, brothers, everyone enters in passing
Only one is allowed to leave.
We huddle around him
What will he see?
Open untouched tapioca
Five unopened bottles of Ensure
The waiter walks into the room asking about supper.
I admire the bones — They held on much longer than the rest of him.
The flesh, I care for less.
It gave up much too soon and
Revealed his every weakness
Bloody scabs and bruises along his arms, head, chest
The color purple, darker and darker
It eats him alive.
So, now he rests
What drugs allow you to forget the cruelty we exhibit for the doomed?
No beating, no ringing, no sounds to assure the mind of passing
Just the faint breath that barely leaves his lips
We look out from the window and see mountains far away
He looks out to a brick building.
What does he see?
Feed him acid and let him see God
Demand of the afterlife the same cruelty
If only to maintain this — One reality to the next
Let him die.
With no more riddles on his lips
Why do we suffer?
An older woman wearing all white, including a white coat with a red cross on the front pocket
Walks in without a smile.
Reservation confirmed for the underworld
But not the great beyond
Nurses enter — we leave
We can’t by chance hear his inhuman screams, as they shift him in his bed
They wheel him away
We follow behind
Creeping death, four idols in the form of friends and family
The writing is on the walls
Omens of good faith
Charlatan’s words printed
And bound by wooden frame
The moon is halved within the palm – thumb and pinky fingers hold a white dove each
With words of hope and faith
Blessed, the touch
Removed from our bodies
To enter this final place.
What is the underworld?
A waiting room with a coffee machine
Dim light – no more mountains
Brick walls outside.
The sun is hot — The day is beautiful
Cradled like a baby to one side
One last bed time story
From mother’s maidenly lips
And we all fall asleep.
The walls are bare
The walls are bare.
Blanket tucked in – one window with one view
Onward, toward the great beyond
An old man, but not the same
Just tired from the cruelest game.