Elizabeth Dodd When Did Dennis Hopper Step in to Help Us With Grief's Pep Assembly

In the hospital we say keep her comfortable
as if morphine soothes the cockroachy spots
twitching her liver as if breakthrough pain is just
light spotting that Lortab like Spray ‘n’ Wash stick
can remove and fade and what the fuck
with the pre-diabetic young aide at the door
bringing Medicare’s requisite lecture
Do you smoke, did you ever smoke
but Aunt Carol quit thirty years ago and she can still
talk so goddammit talk to her but that poor girl for
her flick-of-shit-minimum-wage has to stay in the room
while my aunt closes her eyes and Maxine
god-help-us-Pall-Mall fucking takes the brochure saying
I really should quit too and every good thought that
comes into her blessherheart head is as good as true
oh as good as the gold standard Fentanyl patch
but thank heavens for Kevin who spends at the end
of a day at the salon a full hour combing out smoothing
the dreadlocked knot where she can’t lift her head
from the pillow oh yesterday (sans lights sans camera)
Erin and I looked over the sets(what the fuck with
the social worker doesn’t anyone know fuck about hospice)
for the next scene to play out and as soon as we parked
I remembered the nursing home dredged up one last afternoon
in that mildewed lung of a low-ceilinged room
where, a child, I stood with my mother while
Grandmother Vi coughed out her life

so Erin said scratch this one from the list
okay I said next there was just one more next
after the ambulance ride from the hospital after
the first night in the oxygen pump’s suck/thump/
suck/thump what do I do in the half-antiseptic dawn
in the shift change in the suddenly mid-afternoon
when Tom from PT and his cigarette stink have
come twice already today to lift my dear dying aunt
as if she could sit up feed herself coughing she slumps
first toward him and then me and then Tom follows me
honey into the parking lot into the Oklahoma wind
he thinks we don’t know he wants for a moment
to hug me he wants to have been of help he says honey
she’s dying and then we step back into the mandated
therapy the shit-charade of recovery or—regulations—
they’ll move her out of this wing out of the private room
into god said Robin it’s just a goddam
holding pen here he is sitting beside her
now Carol bending her leg at the knee holding
the porcelain flesh of her foot saying Carol
please try to push back

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