Cloud Demolition

Anvil clouds in the west.
My father dies in hospice
while I’m on the highway,
stuck in roadwork. 
Gaunt on the gurney.
Limbs impossibly still.
Mouth slightly open, 
as if surprised, as if saying 
ah! One eye half closed, 
the other looking up,
lit by a further light,
a sky in the ceiling. 
I touch his hand, barely 
cool. It’s only been 
an hour. At the elevator, 
I’m not ready to drop 
down the bright chute.
I go back. Bend & kiss
his hand. Outside, long
soft nails hammer the earth.


Copyright © 2022 by Willa Carroll. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 7, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“My father was a carpenter, born on Christmas in 1945. He died from occupational exposure to asbestos—his body a demolition site. Poems are made and unmade. Poets shape language on the page, laying down the music, scoring the lines. They discover elements that open poems to the influx of mystery and paradox. In writing this piece, I sought the sounds, images, and metaphors that could make a stay against loss. This poem yokes oppositions: the generative and the destructive, the quotidian and the surprising, the intimate and the vast. In these words, my father remains here and gone.”
Willa Carroll