The thing about hospice care is that
at some point, there is a tick of the clock
where you spin from having an ailing loved one
in the house, to having a dead body in the house.
And then you have to remove the corpse.
So we took the kids to the park.
On the way, the city had put gates across
our alley shortcut, gates to keep the cars out.
But some enterprising neighbors had rigged
their own patchwork lumber-and-bullshit barrier
across the pedestrian opening, and we undid it
and walked through.
“Hey!” a woman called from an upstairs window.
She harangued us for coming through the alley,
and so Uncle Matty cursed her, cussed her hard,
jumping a little and stomping,
and we all felt the thrill of having been trapped
in a water balloon heavy with lukewarm tap water
and hitting a blade of summer needle grass
and collapsing into noise and light again,
and escaping for real the tranquil voice
of the hospice nurse and the dimmed room
with the curtains drawn.
I still think of her, the subject of our misplaced
anger, her flabby triceps brushing the sill — you see
I still can call up that ancient feeling — and the thankful
target she gave us on the way away from
that soon-to-be-empty house.