He promptly pays the woman
who brings death with dignity.
He thanks her for her time.
When she leaves
he tells us what to do with his body.
For his family he will not leave a mess.
You thought you were alone before.
When he is gone
his face is lightly scrimshawed
ivory polished by eighty grateful years.
He seems undiminished by cancer.
His heart anomalously strong—
it took a long time.
For years he pushed sons
and grandsons up mountains.
Don’t stop to gawk, damnit
His father’s hands knew guns and knives,
wood, and wool, and the family glass;
left way behind in Scranton,
to raise the boys in Oregon country
when people made do.
Back then we made do with what we did not have;
and his dad said Do Not Complain.
Keep your knives sharp
store them right
and they will last you
His tools were books, clothes, people, and words.
He was dignified and charming.
His opinions cut you through,
and his concern healed you.
Before when you thought you were alone.
For his last birthday I gave him
eighty strands of shiny silk
knotted on a pear bough,
each thread around a sapling
frame of things to do.
He wrote beautiful thank you notes
on paper picked out by a craftsman’s son;
thick stock, a mosaic of wood pulp.
Only his bicycles ran as smoothly as his manners.
For goodness sake
put your nice things
in the right place
I want the radio, all the Mozart, Beethoven,
and the John Prine.
I want the firm mattress,
the picture scanner you used
to send out family photos on email.
I like the Norwegian flatware.
I take the phone table your dad made from scraps
that will last another hundred years,
toddling on its feet of chipped milk paint.
I pack the toaster for your son,
the boutique bedframe for your granddaughter,
and well loved camping gear for your step grandson.
But there is nothing left
to fill the hole; nothing
you can give me to take your place.
Can I have this day?
Can I keep the afternoon sun dabbing light
through the leaves of the fruit trees?
Can I have the weeds we pulled
and the salad made and ate
for lunch under the pear?
Can I keep the way you gave books away,
and the way I read
in my chair, in the sun
with my hat on?
Can I thank you and thank you
and thank you—
can I have this?