Poem by April L. Ford (Canada/ USA)
Published in The Ofi Press issue 36.
Death Is a Side-Effect
On the evening of the day you died,
I ate at a Chinese buffet.
On the evening of the day before the day you died,
the chicken mom broiled for dinner,
overdone meat falling from toothpick bones,
reminded me of the skin hanging from your femora every four hours
when the nurses turned you to soothe your sores.
On the evening of the day before the day before you died,
I ate ten dollars of vending machine food—each item cost a dollar twenty-five.
I left your side eight times in pursuit of gut-rotting pre-packaged serotonin
while you wasted away; I stuffed my face while you starved
on a shot of morphine every three hours,
something that started with a “V” in between,
which made you forget the pain you couldn’t feel thanks to the morphine.
I’ll never know if I made it back to you in time;
the world’s top doctor can’t tell me for certain if
you held your last breath for me
or if it was post-mortem ripples that caused your head to pulse, but slightly, in my hands,
or nerve twitches that pinned your eyes and fooled me into thinking you saw how sorry I was
to inherit your terminal restlessness as penance.
I read on some website that family members shouldn’t burden their loved ones with sadness;
so I burdened you for nine days while you already carried the burden of dying.
I couldn’t help myself from crying while I stroked your head,
hydrated your lips,
cooled your fevers with recitals of the past.
I told you I loved you, I tried to smile, but I lent no joy to those intimacies;
and now the do-overs are over.
When I was standing at the Chinese buffet,
I smelled your end-of-life scent.
I fantasized you were yelling at me to take better care of myself.
“Death is a side-effect of MSG!” you said.
After you passed, I held you until the crematorium servicemen arrived.
I kissed you goodbye and it was like kissing marble.
Your face had begun to blue
and just like that
you were gone.
On the night of the day you died,
I am sitting in the backyard of your house,
sipping white wine, trying to understand
how to celebrate your life.
April L. Ford is Managing Editor of Digital Americana Magazine. Her first story collection, The Poor Children, is coming out in early 2015 with SFWP. She has publications forthcoming with New Madrid: Journal of Contemporary Literature, and The After Coetzee Project Anthology. www.april-l-ford.com
Image by Jessie Hart, entitled: "Trees in a wine glass".