Oxygen slithers
–tube to mask,
mouth to lungs–
while patches of relief,
queued like checkers,
dot the neck in front-line
defense against the next
painful onslaught probing
for a breach in the wall.

Day one, day two,
now three. Chaos
vying for control while
quiet routine endures:
the cleansing, the turning,
the comforting, the cloaking
with compassion of the harsh
and naked truth– death’s
fetid presence is seeping
into the room.

A daughter sits nearby
rocking to the rhythm
of breathing that bubbles
to the surface of this quiet night,
rocking to memories of a vigil
past when liquid spirits numbed
her heart far, far away
as father died and mother
cried alone.

In the morning,
the mother will die,
daughter at her side, and
a steady stream of tears
will wash away the last
of the long winter’s snow.

© 2006 Dennis Ference