My lovely dog, dying in old age,
Looked at me with his cloudy, tired eyes.
Let me go, Dad.
And I did. I had no choice.
I wondered if he knew
That those were his last, labored breaths on Earth.
I cried in his black fur like a child,
Then lifted his useless body
Into the back seat,
Drove to the vet’s office,
Where they loved him, and said,
“no, not Roscoe,” the grand old man
Who was everybody’s favorite.
Later, a box came, his ashes, with a paw print on the front.
As sacrilegious as it sounds,
I thought of my dad,
The one act play that ended so poorly,
I also cried on his useless body,
The skinny chest, the gnarled knuckles.
Before they cremated him,
Someone had to confirm it was him.
I walked into the room they made up like a chapel,
Paper on his naked body like an altar,
I tried to say a prayer but what came out was,
Why did you die?
And more sobs, until finally,
I told the funeral home yes,
This is my father, Bill,
A builder, a burier of men,
A woodworker, animal lover,
Smoker, mechanic, teacher, clown,
Reduced to this, something I can’t
Recognize, or say.
And so I said goodbye again,
Kissing his dead forehead one last time.
The hospital kept him 45 days,
Suffering on the stage where we watched,
Our morbid reality show we couldn’t take our eyes off of.
They could have kept him alive
Forever with their machines,
Propped his eyes open I guess,
But was never coming back to us.
Why preserve the fiction?
All that lives must die,
Your father lost a father,
His father lost, lost his,
And all that die must suffer for a time before,
Something that the dying must simply endure,
To our amazement and our shame.
You watch the suffering until you know.
Powerless to intervene, sedation
Is all that anyone can offer,
All you can do is stare in the sterile room
With the buzzing light, thinking,
I’m sorry that we did this to you.
That breathing that can’t continue
On its own, the hanging mouth,
The lonely eyes. It’s selfish to make them stay,
Staggering on in mortal blindness,
Like we are, all of us, waiting for someone
In the audience to put us to sleep.