There Is No Such Thing as the Moment of Death

I work nights, and he was awake.

When he saw me, he said, “I’m not going to

make it.” Well when they say that

they know. People can tell. You don’t

argue with an expert. I wet the cloth

and bathed his face, but it didn’t do him

good. So I took his hands in my two

and we held on. No one

was alone in that motion. The way water

is a part of itself, we were the going

until his hands went slack in mine.

Still I held on, some final acknowledgment

beginning its climb out of the body,

his skin resilient still, that shine

across a taut thing—then I saw it sag

and go flat. His body had a clearness

about it then, the clean weightlessness

of a crucible completely empty,

in which you hear the air ticking

against the glaze. Then I heard another

sound, like when you’re a kid, holding

a shell to your ear, hearing

the ocean. I held on, and then I understood:

it was the sound of my own blood.

 

Reprinted with permission of Marilyn Krysl.