The Book of Roe

Roe Ann, you are dead.

Medically, actually, literally,
you are alive.

You eat and drink and piss and when two fingers are laid upon your wrist

There is a beat. beat. ba-beat.

But make no mistake.

You are dead.

You died surgeries ago, when lupus came at last and told you
no more. You are done.

You died when grandfather stopped carrying; when your sons became
too busy to visit. When your daughter cried every night miles and miles
away from you. When your grandchildren paled at your thinness.

You died when the walking left you, when Brittle became a title and
pain started to leach you to a darkness that never gave way. You quiver
from a fat pen, a glass of juice, the gravity of the air. You slide.

Your eyes have turned into glue. The walker you use steadies the feet
but your stomach rolls as though on the water. You grow inwards,
imploding; all the world watching yet not a hand to pad the wound.

Roe Ann, you are dead.

There is no doubt.

You’ve been in the dirt for many years now. I’ve laid roses on the plot.

Thinking back, I now recall, my body at your bedside, my lungs
trapped within my throat. I take your feather fingers in mine and
I ask you

Grandma, are you afraid?

You look to me, with a spark of confidence
that I thought had long departed.

No, you say, I am not afraid.

But then, the quiver returns. You look feared; staring numbly
to the television that dances in its pointless ruckus. And,
I understand.

Roe Ann,

You are not afraid of death.

You are afraid of the future days you will still be here. Of the tubes and
the wires, the mush piled into your mouth, of the vice that clamps your guts.

You are afraid of the conversations that run around you as if
you are not there, of the hands and drum circles and prayers
that cage you in so to lock you inside with your suffering.
You are afraid of living, another hour,
as an undead.

Roe Ann, you’ve taught me, I can see:

Death, is not an ugly thing.

Pain is ugly.
Torture is ugly.
Misery is ugly.
Imprisonment

Is surely evil’s crown.

Roe Ann, you are dead. You are dead as a Dickens doornail, as a broken tree limb rotted;
you are with the alkaline lake Natron frozen alongside every carcass in calcified
gone.

And, it is so beautiful, that I weep from the thought.

Your grave. I hear it.

It’s a ballad. A hymn. A song.

Roe Ann, you are dead.

Thank God.

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