The hospice nurse was shaving his slack jaw when we arrived. Unresponsive
was the word she had used. His body was a still plank on the narrow bed.
He gulped deep seismic breaths, three minutes apart. My brother brushed his hair.
Because I knew hearing was the last to go, I said the necessary — we’re here Dad,
you’re not alone. A corner of his gown was stained red; liquid morphine, not blood.
We took turns dabbing a wet sponge to his lips.
What else did the room contain? One black leather Dopp kit
he’d had all our lives, the zipper broken. A nail file and two shoe horns,
a few unfamiliar shirts and a belt piled on a chair. How lonely he must have been.
I recalled him, years earlier, reciting Pound’s lines, gesturing with vehemence
and agreement: What thou lovest well remains, the rest is dross.
This is my inheritance; fury and a covenant of words.
We drove home through the icy grid of streets — November unrelenting.
The nurse called at midnight — He’s gone. Did you want to see him?
No, we agreed. We’d seen all he could give.
This selection comes from the collection Requiem: A Patrimony of Fugues, available from Diode Editions. Order your copy here. Our curator for December is Krista Cox.
Tina Schumann is the author of two poetry collections, Praising the Paradox (Red Hen Press,2019) and As If (Parlor City Press, 2010), which was awarded the Stephen Dunn Poetry Prize. Her work was a finalist in the National Poetry Series, Four Way Books Intro Prize and the New Issues Prize. She is the recipient of the 2009 American Poet Prize from The American Poetry Journal and a Pushcart nominee. She is the curator and editor of the anthology Two-Countries: U.S. Daughters and Sons of Immigrant Parents (Red Hen Press, 2017). Her poems have appeared in various publications and anthologies, including The American Journal of Poetry, Ascent, Cimarron Review, Crab Creek Review, Midwest Quarterly, Nimrod, and The Yale Journal for Humanities in Medicine. Read more about Tina at http://www.tinaschumann.com
Krista Cox is a paralegal and poet living in northern Indiana. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Pittsburgh Poetry Review, The Indianola Review, Whale Road Review, and Pirene’s Fountain, among other places in print and online. She twice received the Lester M. Wolfson Student Award in Poetry, and has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. In her abundant spare time, Krista parents, paints, and plans community events as the Program Director of Lit Literary Collective. Learn more than you ever wanted to know about her at kristacox.me.
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2 thoughts on “The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Requiem: A Patrimony of Fugues”
Tina’s fugues are stunning. How many of us have been in that room? Watched our parents, in-laws, grandparents, spouses, friends deteriorate? Thank you, Tina, for writing through the pain with beauty and for capturing the loss, the anger, the complexities that, personal to you, are nonetheless universal.
Many thanks Sydney. It is gratifying to know these difficult fugues made their way into the world and touched others. Thanks for taking the time to comment.