Monday, November 8, 2010

Five Tasks Taught by Hospice Nurses

By Patrick Clary To my brother

1. Say Goodbye
You called me at work to ask for a loan
And said goodbye as sweetly as if I'd said yes.
I was unhappy, and probably rude.
It was the last time we talked.

2. Express Forgiveness
I forgive you for stepping over the edge,
Wearing a roofer's safety harness
Clipped stylishly to nothing,
Momentary angel over Arizona.

When you were seven
You flew the swing set outside
Our Chilean house through an earthquake
As walls and ceilings collapsed into themselves.
"More, make it do that again!"
Your life was not as short as I feared
Nor as long as I hoped.

3. Request Forgiveness
Forgive me for not lending you the money
To buy that motorcycle,
For not admiring your poetry,
For never taking a photograph of you with my sons.
Forgive me for not wrestling with you into more
Sunsets the summer before I was drafted.
Forgive me for being your imitation angel,
For leaving you with that elephant in the living room.
Forgive me for living.

4. Affirm Affection
I love you
For being obvious about loving me
When I was fifteen and
Thought I couldn't bear to be loved.
You were too young to know better.
You were so alive,
Your death seemed impossible-
If you could die everyone would.

5. Express Gratitude
Thank you for giving me back
My lost family and Montana,
Where we scattered your ashes
According to your instructions:
Up Big Creek Canyon
And on the hundred-year
Flood plain of the Bitterroot.
West Yellowstone burned all the week
Of your death, frosting windshields white in July.
Now, when I visit - and I visit often - I do work I love,
While I stay in a lodge built ten years ago
Of first-growth timber
Salvaged from that fire.

Now I see: living is a kind of slow burning,
And love is what we salvage from the fire.

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