Today I came home early…

Today I came home early
He’s here, but he doesn’t come downstairs

That’s usual these days

He doesn’t call to me either
Also usual

The dog’s leash is hanging on the door knob, so I know he’s in the house

Then I see the dog
She’s asleep on the floor

I don’t know what to expect as I walk lightly
Up the stairs

Meditation music whispers through his door
which is shut
like usual

I open the door slowly
And he is there
On the floor
Flat on his back
Shirtless, eyes closed, rib cage defined, stomach sunk in

He doesn’t know I’m there
And I watch him for a moment
He is serene

Peaceful

What’s going through his mind?
Should I let him know I’m here?
Clear my throat?
Back up and come in again?

No

I close the door, nearly all the way

He’s still breathing.
That’s enough.

In the end

It will come down to this

We were the best of friends

You were there for me

I was there for you

Little things like amnesia

won’t matter

The others weed themselves out like that

They weren’t there

They didn’t stick it out

But you, my friend

you followed me around

you did your part

you held me through the waves of my breaking heart

so that now when I face the deep chasm of the abyss

the end of dreams and hope

a life closing in

I am here for you

Even though I am afraid

of this dark thing

this rage against the dying of the light

I will always be your friend

And the path is clear

ignore the worst

remember the best

It’s easy to know what to do

I will sit with you

and remind myself

I know enough

to make you smile.

When you look into his eyes

And he no longer sees you

But he needs you to make him breakfast

When you look into his eyes and he isn’t the only one

Who doesn’t remember how it used to be

When you look for his eyes and they are downcast

And filled with tears

And then hate because you forgot to order his medicine

When you reach into your mouth with both hands

To hold your tongue

This is when you are tested

What did you know of your vows when you made them?

Did you guess that his body would still be there

But his mind would fly away?

For better or for worse

Did anyone ever explain what worse could be?

Perhaps he would cheat on you—that would be worse

But you never imagined the loneliness of being next to someone who isn’t there

For richer or for poorer

Or that nursing care would gobble up your life’s work

and savings

in mere months

You thought dementia was about forgetting

Not anger

Not violence

Not shame

In good times and in bad

Or thought you’d give up your dreams as soon as you could realize them

For all the days of your life

And you remember that you chose him

above all others

because he was so kind.

Where I live

Barren hills
monotonously conforming
beaten down
a snapshot in time
like ocean waves frozen—
dead.
Here is where I stopped,
a purgatory, a wasteland.
Like me, these fields once lived.
Now they contain only one kind of straw.
But late at night
coyotes still wander,
and sometimes I wake to their calls,
their cries,
that like the small spark in my soul,
they are not completely extinguished,
these natives
now aliens,
defiant
because they survive.
Backlit by the moon,
they sing to the deaf.