Tough years and gravity
press a heavy boot heel against your neck,
strip you of fishing trips, deer or pheasant hunts,
rough hands on shiny gear-shifts,
chilly swims during burning summers
in icy country canals.
Eight decades have bleached your farmer’s tan,
replaced hard muscle with slack wings of age-spotted skin.
You once sighted moving antlers on distant ridges.
Now batteries power your selective hearing.
You scribble names, when you remember them,
on scraps of paper which you hide inside unworn shoes.
One by one, your stories and siblings disappear.
Strange women bring dark coffee,
the wrong sandwiches, or broken cookies.
You require grab rails for every private act.
Still, you force your broken body to keep moving,
insist on driving through rows of almonds,
to the family garden on your own ranch.
Weekly, you visit the YMCA pool where,
like a stubborn Etruscan, you keep your head above water,
practice kicking and breathing,
swim lap after lap
How Sweet It Is
This weekend escape ends.
My sister and I pack,
prepare to drive my parents back home.
Dad’s oxygen machine and walker
rattle among suitcases that hold pills,
extra changes of Depends,
boxes of wet, soiled clothes.
It takes two of us
to heave his swollen body
from wheelchair to truck
where we position him
in the passenger seat.
Halfway between Monterey and Modesto,
we stop for lunch at Andersen’s,
wrestle him from pickup to chair,
chair to walker, through door after door,
to the tiny public restroom
where my mother assists
as we anxiously wait.
In the coffee shop,
my father spurns the healthy soup,
orders hot apple pie á la mode, black coffee.
He smiles, spills pastry, melted ice cream,
across his sweat pants and shirt.
Tonight, he will return
to the sofa where he waits
for sleep, the next meal,
his eventual death.
But today, he is just another diner,
pausing mid-journey to break the long fast.
He laughs and chews, savors every sweet bite.
For an entire month,
morning ices what was living,
blasts the last flowers into black wraiths.
It comes in waves:
sadness, remembrance of loss,
I drag myself between gray hours,
see your closed eyes again.
Mourners touch your chilled skin,
visit loudly with one another
as if it’s a party, not a final viewing.
You asked to have your ashes
scattered in a field by the spray rig.
We filed you in a mausoleum instead.
Every day since, I wander empty trails,
the last of our bloodline,
wonder when scar tissue forms.
Jennifer Lagier has published nine books of poetry and in a variety of literary magazines and anthologies. She taught with California Poets in the Schools and is now a retired college librarian/instructor. Jennifer is a member of the Italian American Writers Association, Pacific Northwest Writers Association, and Rockford Writers Guild. She co-edits the Homestead Review and maintains websites for Ping Pong: A Literary Journal of the Henry Miller Library, The Monterey Poetry Review, and misfitmagazine.net. She also helps coordinate the Monterey Bay Poetry Consortium’s Second Sunday Reading Series. Visit her website at: jlagier.net