Five Days after I Write about My Mother’s Funeral,
She Suffers a Massive Stroke and Dies
“The rhythm of the heart is not given by the brain.
It comes from the heart's own pacemaker, a small node
of special heart muscle called the sinus node or sinoatrial node.”
When the doctor tells me
my mother is brain dead,
my heart stutter steps,
then resumes its normal
at rest 86 beats per minute.
When he says my mother
is on a ventilator, I remember,
breathing is only possible
with a functioning brainstem,
a fact learned 27 years ago
for a college biology test.
He asks if I heard him. I’ll be
in Las Vegas in three hours.
Do not take her off the ventilator.
For the last two hours, I have watched
A monitor’s iridescent green peaks
and valleys map, my mother’s beating
heart; I have heard the ventilator’s
hiss floosh hiss floosh hiss floosh
while my mother’s white sheeted chest
rose fell rose fell rose fell
Watching my mother’s still eyelids,
I nod slightly, hear a metallic click,
then nothing. An unnamed man
removes medical tape from the sides
of my mother's smooth hazelnut face,
from a hard white plastic funnel in her mouth.
He de-snakes a green-wetness
clogged clear plastic tube from her throat.
Her right shoulder seems to draw up.
Deep inside her body, fluid gurgles.
Her heart’s pacemaker continues
to regulate 66 to 70 beats per minute.
Beside my mother’s machine crowded
bedside, I want to hear the blunt closing
of blackness as it swallows sadness;
I want to feel the clean edge of forgetfulness
slice my scalp; I want to smell the slickness
of blankness smearing my fingers; I want
to see the grit of thanklessness smooth
this white man's flat condolence; I want
to taste the of elasticity of thickness continuing
to pump blood in and out of my mother’s heart
residing in her breathless body.
Instead, I wet my right index finger,
wipe away a glob of green wetness
from my mother's gapping mouth;
place my left hand on her chest,
whisper, Shush. You have done well.
Her heart’s pulse plummets,
35 beats. No need to keep fighting,
25 beats. 18 beats 11 beats 6 beats
An even green line marks her ending.
My heart stutter steps, then resumes
its normal at rest 86 beats per minute.