It is in dying
by Alice Bolstridge

_ "It is in dying that we are born"  - St. Francis of Assisi

How do you help your brother die?  I asked
the hills along my drive to see him.
What do you say?  What do you do?  
Wind rattled the windows, shook the whole car;
dry leaves whirled up and up;
forest vistas flamed with the fall.
I counted deer kills and prayed,
Make me an instrument of your peace.

When I arrived, he played his old records
of Johnny Horton singing history
and talked of roles he acted long ago,
"Riders to the Sea," "The Cremation of Sam McGee."
Then he stopped talking for the rest
of his dying.   He moaned or cried with pain
seizures, and I stroked his brow and arm
while the morphine was adjusted.   We looked
into each other's eyes like mothers
and babies look.   Past blushing,  
______________________________past remembering.

Listening to his death rattle, I smelled decay
on his breath, the odor we brush away
every day.  I whispered forgiveness
into his ear, kissed him, counted second
by second the faltering rise and fall
of his chest.  The terrible grace of it all
flares sharp and brilliant as autumn leaves.

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