At the End of His Life

by Christina Lovin
At the end of his life, my father drove
himself to the hospital.  Old and brown,
waiting like a patient dog whose master
has abandoned him with no thought
of returning, his car hunched into the far corner
of the vast parking lot until rescued  by grandchild
or son, returned  to the overgrown drive of home,
to stay as grass grew tall
around the flaccid rubber of aging tires.

We keep vigil over the remains
of what had been his body
before the mass--undetected by physician
and instrument—grew to fill his belly, draining
the blood from his mind, leaving him hollow,
white, and lost on other planes,
to which there can be no clock or map:  
“That’s Kansas,” he claims and struggles
his tethered hand toward the swelter
of Illinois in July, shimmering outside.

Filling with the darkness of heavy evening
and heavier drugs, he grows less restless.
Breathes deeper and sighs, “The last time
they gave me reefer, I had too much.”

How many years ago?  Sixty-five? Seventy?
Seventy-five? Secrets of a life sometimes seep
out when the body is invaded, vulnerable:  

That greater confession: weeks earlier,
calling for the pastor, craving absolution—
a sin he did not commit, transgression pressed
upon him as a youth, hardening his entire life
with its defiling, purple darkness.

The drawn shade that is my father is pulled
up in the bed.  I sit across from his feet
where the raised ashen gown bares pallid knees,
a fleshy shadow between his open legs—
that place from where I came, some certainty
of where I, too, will one day go.
Christina Lovin is the author of What We Burned for Warmth and Little Fires.  A two-time Pushcart nominee and multi-award winner, her writing has appeared in numerous publications. Southern Women Writers named Lovin 2007 Emerging Poet.  Having served as Writer-in-Residence at Devil’s Tower National Monument and the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest in Central Oregon, she was recently named the inaugural Poet-in-Residence at Connemara, the North Carolina home of the late poet Carl Sandburg.  Lovin has been a resident fellow at Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Vermont Studio Center, Prairie Center of the Arts, and Footpaths House (Azores). Her work has been generously supported with grants from Elizabeth George Foundation, Kentucky Foundation for Women, and Kentucky Arts Council, including the Al Smith Fellowship.

© 2010, Christina Lovin