You look at your grandmother in a flimsy gown and ask,
How can a body keep living like this?
Living, I think, is not this—
her long, whistled breaths,
her skin tight, her hands bruised and pruned,
her speech reduced to groans.
She hasn’t eaten in two weeks, you say.
I squeeze your hand as though to ease
the burden of those still living,
waiting bedside for the last labored breath.
You ask about my dad, his last days
I remember the date and time, 4:15, Saturday,
our circle around his bed, “Our Father” whispered,
green bile he vomited.
Like you, I didn’t recognize
the bone-thin patient in bed.
He too kept on living, until his chest rose
and fell one last time.
Brian Fanelli’s latest book is Waiting for the Dead to Speak (NYQ Books), winner of the 2017 Devil’s Kitchen Poetry Prize. His other books include the collection All That Remains (Unbound Content) and an anthology he co-edited entitled Down the Dog Hole:11 Poets on Northeastern Pennsylvania (Nightshade Press). Brian’s writing has been published in the Los Angeles Times, World Literature Today, Paterson Literary Review, Main Street Rag, Schuylkill Valley Journal, and elsewhere. He is an assistant professor of English at Lackawanna College, and he blogs about horror films and literature at www.brianfanelli.com.