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Death Rattle

by Leah Laiben


I am Blanche Dubois and I scream in my sister’s face,
funerals are pretty compared to death.
She sighs and buys another round at the bar in the middle of town.

She doesn’t understand how ugly it is,
the rasping, hitching, aching breath,
to hold his hand, to lock his gaze, to Lamaze breathe
him into the next life. She’ll never feel
the delicious euphoria (and the guilt)
when the nurse relieves me.

She can’t know how tears look as they
trickle down sunken, leather cheeks, pooling
with foamy spittle on the unshaven chin
of a man who should have quit his life weeks ago.
She can’t know what moaning sounds like at midnight
when he thinks I’m asleep.

She can’t know the secret songs I
sometimes sang from dusk til dawn to keep him
calm, keep him from being restrained by a matronly
nurse with a big ass and no compassion. She can’t know. But I
do. I’ve changed shit bags. Wiped his
tears, and his stoma--better than his ass, I guess.

I’ve lifted all 95 pounds of him from my living
room floor when he fell while I bought
Ensure. I’ve scrubbed rancid vomit. I’ve held him as they pierced his lung
with a six inch needle, paperclip width, and drained a quart of red
froth. I’ve cleaned infected meat and tendon and bone
from a barely living leg.

Funerals are pretty compared to death,
but she doesn’t know that. She doesn’t know that
dying isn’t always a lone man’s
game. But damn, God
damn. I wish it was.

04/19/2018

Posted on 04/19/2018
Copyright © 2021 Leah Laiben

Member Comments on this Poem
Posted by Rob Littler on 04/25/18 at 03:26 AM

Funerals are the first day of the rest of life for everyone else: $#%@bagless

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