A tumor in your right lung, no bigger
than a child's fist, suffocates
you slowly. No more full-throttled breathing,
the constant in and out of cigarette smoke, streams
of white air you blew into rings upon request; its nicotine-
burn scenting drapes, staining walls, your fingernails.
An oxygen tank stands beside your bed; its erratic
alarm beeps false alerts, keeps us at the ready. You
sleep through conversations with visitors, wake
for a feeding, a sip of tea, a chip of cracker, never
make it to the bathroom without aid, agree
to wear diapers when standing makes you dizzy.
Pillow and mattress swallow you whole, only
your foot pokes above horizontal. You used to
hold me in a headlock, wrestle
me to the floor. Gonna give? Gonna
give? We would stand back-to-back, see how tall
I had grown. Over time it marked your shrinking.
You hope to reunite with the daughter who
died not too long ago, the one you nursed but couldn't
keep alive. You lift your head off the pillow
as you exhale, inch your way skyward. I look about
the room filled with family photographs for a way
to keep you here, search for a sewing kit, a needle
and thread, some safety pins and wire to sew
your nightgown to the mattress, do as you taught me,
never give up.