The monitors have been turned off
leaving the rise and fall of his chest the only indication of life
I watch almost impatient
But this is nothing new
He has done nothing quickly in my lifetime  
His gentle snores a relief

Unshaven and sparse gray on his speckled head
Nutmeg skin in the dead of winter
against the crisp white sheets

Great effort was put into so few words
And my eyes would roll  
As if he must inspect each word before opening his mouth
turning them over in his gnarled hands just to feel their sounds
I urged the conversations along
Never pausing to think
perhaps he has earned the right to live slowly  

His body bears the signs of a complete life
but not one cushioned by the comforts money or stability could afford  

Yesterday’s nurse asked him how he lost the last two fingers on his right hand
His eyes give a faint glimmer of another life
Only 13 but doing man’s work
The sickle bar of a tractor, he says smiling
But it didn’t hurt  

That’s just how things work sometimes
He says, when I question his memory
He is sure it didn’t hurt  

I wonder if it would have
had he been allowed to feel
Would he have laughed more
had he been allowed humor and joy
had he a gentle father and been of his mother’s womb
not the quare child of a squaw long gone  

His brow furrows into lines deeply carved
creased with pain and grief
But there are crow’s feet too
mapping laughter and smiles   

His lips once full and beautiful
fall with each breath
unhindered by teeth long gone
Then offering a glimpse of the past
Each exhale shaping his face back to youth
Like the handsome savages I secretly mourned
shot down by cowboys during morning cereal  

I’ve never known him to have teeth
but he did have a preserved grouse
Rusted toolboxes filled with things he no longer needs
Moth eaten books on framing roofs
I wonder how many roofs his hands built
Yet none in his own name
I’ll box the tools and clean out his tiny, rented home  

Now he needs a new body
a different life that might’ve been kinder
Maybe he would’ve taken better care
not smoked so many Marlboros
But then again, 81 years is awhile  

A butterfly tattooed on his left arm
Purple and blue maybe, faded
I never asked why  

In the grainy photos he looks like a star
Beautiful in black and white
Dark and handsome  

They called us back to get the final plans in order
A pyre would be ideal a slim canoe, burning bright against grey-green waters
but such things aren’t done today
We will call the number from the billboard
sign the agreement and pay the bill
They will arrive in a shiny black car and drive him to a great metal pyre

I will walk slowly as we carry his ashes
turning them over in my smooth hands
Letting the wind scatter them on the pond he so loved
Feed me to the fish, he said