No matter how he wrested himself silent in night,
six days post-stroke he woke fluent in former languages,
backtracking this time here.
Mercy nurses, attendants, remedied in their own.
Once he registered, all he cawed out was
          if it’s too far gone, we need to talk.
     All of this, what I am, doesn’t know how to die.
     All I know how to do is survive. All I ever done.
     If it’s time, tell me, tell me, give me four days. 
     I’d like to have that blanket Dustin designed.
     Damnit, I hate to leave this beauty,           life.
On the fourth, came the Pendleton, delivered
right on time. His breath slowed, eased, then quit.
That was it.
After some hours the rest of us slept.
Some of us sleep still left.

Copyright © 2018 by Allison Adelle Hedge Coke. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 17, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“My father took his journey on July 13, 2016, at ninety-four. He had rheumatoid arthritis and polio since childhood, became deaf during World War II, blind after my mother passed, suffered dozens of AFib-related strokes, as well as sepsis, a broken neck and hip, and many instances of near-death, before I realized he did not know how to do anything but survive. He asked me to have the talk with him if he wasn’t getting better (after being told repeatedly he would die and didn’t). He loved life so much; it pained him to leave, yet he had no fear of leaving. He asked for the Spring Pendleton Blanket designed by Dustin Mater to wrap himself in for his final rest—four days—and then he left in peace. This is a tribute to his will.”
—Allison Hedge Coke