When my father’s chest fell for the last time,
it was hard to look up and realize
everything else was as it had been before.
Green buses trundled by seven floors below
belching diesel and noise. The cafeteria workers
moved dinner from room to room. Parents
wept in the fluorescent hall.
Not that I thought he’d live forever
or, terribly enough, that I wanted him forever,
only that he’d live long enough to ask me
why I write poetry.
He appeared relieved, actually to be done
with this pale green room and dull world, until his
last exhale, which lingered
with us even as it sank into his chest,
the bed, the floor under, the basement,
the dirt, the water far below. As if
in the midst of his last,
he’d unexpectedly recalled
his first, and how much it
tasted like vinegar or sugar,
felt like the end
of a long rise
through the now beckoning deep.