What words can you wrap around

a dying brother, still dying, even now.

A man who has not eaten for a month

sips at water and says, even thirst is a gift.

He asks what other gifts God has given him.

I’m your gift, his daughter says from a corner.

And he smiles and rasps—

you can only unwrap a child once.

The rest is prayer and even more prayer.

You sing softly to him in a language

only the two of you speak and he

snores softly into your palm, breath and blood.


Copyright © 2018 by Chris Abani. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 31, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“For the Ehugbo, how we die is as important as how we live, and to be allowed to sit in the presence of a dying brother is a rare privilege. To be graced with the chance to sing family across, to ease the journey, to make a love of dying, a grace of loss, is an incomparable gift. This is all.”
—Chris Abani