The Third of April

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

~ T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land

It was chilly that morning.

You woke up early and
Ambled down the long, carpeted hallway
And into the dusty back bedroom
Where you lay down on the old foam mat
Next to the stacks of books and magazines

While gazing up at the textured swirls
Of the bright white ceiling
You moved ever so slowly
Through your daily exercises

Suddenly something
Burst inside your mighty brain
And like a wild river
The blood rushed through you

Your power was swiftly extinguished
Your face swollen and contorted
Your eyes veiled to the wonder and light of life
One arm that had been flailing angrily
Was now limp, next to your bloated side

Who knows exactly when it happened?
Only you, and God.

Perhaps your mind
Had been retracing the details
Of the previous evening
(when, after a lively family dinner,
your granddaughter cajoled you
into watching “Dancing with the Stars”)
Maybe you were imagining the day ahead

No, I think you were privately dreading
The burdensome years yet to come
You resented the blood pressure medication
You ignored the cane
Your expensive hearing aid
Was always left in its case, untouched

To hell with doctors
To hell with growing old

At the hospital, the hours
Felt slow and heavy, as we waited
The hurried steps of doctors and nurses
The beeping of machines, the hum of the lights
Punctured the heavy silence of our fears
I was queasy and lightheaded

Then later that evening, shortly after six
With all of us standing around your bed
We motioned to the doctor
The plug was finally pulled
And in that still, grey corner of the hospital
You slipped away

Even after ten years
It’s impossible to know
Just how to start or to end
This poem of infinite goodbye.

Dad and me in 1983