I live with my two dogs on the edge of the university research forest, where I walk everyday and think and pray. I have taught at Oregon State University since 1986 and have been a Catholic deacon since 1987. I have written a number of books, including two books of poetry. My second book of poems, THE NEXT THING ALWAYS BELONGS, was published in 2011 by Airlie Press.
An old man is dying in a dark, fetid room.
His daughter is with him, in her kindness, praying
and holding his hand, though he was a harsh
and bitter man all his life and abused her
and abused his wife. He had been in combat
in a war and maybe that was it, but now
he is dying in a dark, fetid room and he is rigid
in his narrow, little bed, shaking, hands clenched,
and his daughter is with him. When I come
to read the Psalms to him he seems to recognize
the rhythm of the words and how one line
is parallel to the next and this seems to soothe him
for a while. He doesn’t shake as much.
His eyes stop darting back and forth beneath
the stony lids. And later, after I leave, he opens
his eyes. He seems to focus for a moment.
He seems to look through the darkness
at his daughter, and he says two words to her,
in a faint, croaking voice: You bitch.
Who knows what this man was thinking
or what he was seeing. Maybe he wasn’t talking
to his daughter, maybe he was talking to Death,
but this is what he says, you bitch,
and this is what his daughter does. She rises
from that chair, and she leans over that bed,
and she whispers in her father’s ear:
Daddy, I love you. And that night, he dies.
Love is a great emptying out and losing.
Love is a rising from a chair. It is a leaning
over a bed. It is a whisper in a room and a word
in a room. The last thing this man
ever said was vulgar and angry and mean.
But this wasn’t the last thing he ever heard.
-published in my book, The Next Thing Always Belongs
©2015 Chris Anderson