Last Breaths

Pappaw never wanted
Their artificial air.
Scooting on his heels
In a wheeled chair,
Hooting and high
From its lack.

A Yankee granddaughter
Maybe has 10
Of 1,000 puzzle pieces —
And like people,
The picture seems
To shrink
With time —
But one would surely
Be his lungs.

Scrambled eggs
And coffee milk.
Stuffing bursting
From an easy chair.
A slow, laughing
Drawl of a smile
That would sneak
Up his face
Behind the smoke.

And wonder
At how he leveraged
Time underground
With the earth’s black seams
Into filling station days
Down the corner,
Back when a gas station
Meant more
Than just gas.

The smell of his crisp
Blue-gray workshirt
In the morning.
Little coca-cola bottles
Pulled from an icebox
In the old red shed
Out back,
And roller-coaster rides
In his proud
Green pickup.

The now-inexplicable
Lava lamp,
How he shared
Secret passages.
I snagged my stockings
Climbing a fence —
The trouble he forestalled
For a tomboy
Dressed too girlish.

I tried to keep my distance
From the coffin.
The smell of
The embalming
Brought to mind
Sharp blades and dissection —
A disturbing desire
To see his stopped heart
Or the color and shape
Of lungs
That had taken so much

And Angie planted
A hot pink kiss
On his corpse —
I guess we all
Have our ways
To deal
With departed.


About Emily

I may or may not have: A. Dirt B. Ink C. Paint D. Wool under my fingernails.

One response to “Last Breaths”

  1. hedgewitch says :

    Very fine poem–the character study of the man, and the speaker, the times, all wrapped together in the hand-work of a spotless execution. I was holding my breath by the last lines, and the sigh that came out seemed to cover the whole universe of dilemmas and delights we navigate to make a life.

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