Still Wrapped Presents

For John,

 

The day prior to Christmas Eve,

He had one of his fits. Norwegian stubbornness

Had made him contumacious, the variety of which

I hope to one day obtain, He asked

For help to his own bed.

 

I often wonder what happens

When you cut down a tree, but don’t pull

The stump, how exactly does it decompose?

He existed in a universe where that process

Is all about shriveling.

 

His oak body had become so light,

And the sun bounced off the snow

In just such a way that

His true essence was revealed

To his daughter and me.

 

I don’t know how, but he retained

His own scent throughout the whole thing.

Sweat and some aftershave

I would swear they only ever made

For him. I want to smell like him.

 

When he said my brother’s name

While staring into my eyes,

And then had the most pitiable look in his own,

I cried, and didn’t correct him.

We understood each other.

 

That was the last walk

Of the greatest man I ever met.

He taught me the value

Of wearing a suit and drinking beer

Just cause you can.

 

Hospitals don’t smell any different

Even the day before Christmas,

The room couldn’t stay dark

Blue blinds rendered helpless

with the way the sun bounced off the snow.

 

He rattled all through the night

Like his old Town Car did

When it kicked alive in the barn

In defiance of god

And negative temperatures.

 

Us, the left behind family,

Would come and go all night,

From the uncomfortable chair

In the room all the way

To the one in the hall.

 

He came in like a thunderstorm,

Of this I’m sure,

His world always seemed

Like a tamed hurricane,

With him at the eye.

 

He left in a fit of awful gasps.

The same gasps one sees

When a fish is left out of water

Too long.

This death rattle of kings.

 

She leaned over him,

Her black cloak drenched

In meaningful sequin.

Pale hands illuminated

By the moon bouncing off the snow.

 

I think I was the only one

Who watched her kiss him

Like a lover, and stroke

That thick, black hair

Like a mother.

 

All this, illuminated

With blue light from hospital blinds

And fresh white Christmas snow.

All this, and still wrapped presents

Back home.

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