It’s July 4th Again, The Day My Father Died.


The afternoon I decided to un-intubate my father

They told me he was breathing

On his own,

That forth day of July 2010,

But just yesterday, I sigh, as it will always, be,

Yesterday, in my mind’s eye.

That dreadful day,

Tremendously tremulously existing,

Beside all my nights and days.

They lied lied lied,

Why, I’ve cried cried cried,

Why, O why did they want him to die?

They had anesthetized my father

Like a lion escaped from the zoo.

They had tied his arms down to the sides of the bed

So he wouldn’t pull out the tube winding through his trachea into his lungs.

The same as they did to my grandmother

Thirty-five years before,

And most likely they will

Do this identical yet interchangeable thing to you, and me too.

It undid me to see him like this, my father.

He had always said that everything ends differently than you would expect. And here it was unfolding in his own last days.

I hated that.

I hated it as much as I’ve ever hated anything. Hated it as much as I will perhaps ever hate again.

How can I be so filled with hatred remembering the last days of my father’s life?

I live for truth and beauty and this this this, this was the opposite as opposite as far far far as one can get from beauty in the night in the morning in the afternoon in the city in the hospital where I was born and my father lay dying: This, was dying disguised.


Fifteen months later then, my mother,

Dying, dying was allowed in that place intended for dying,

But it was no easier; it was no less ugly,

It was no more beautiful even though there were,

Supposedly, gardens, flowers, lovely bushes and

We could see the leafless tree branches reaching toward the sky right outside

The doors to her room in the frigid February air.

Even though, we read poems over her body after she breathed no more beautiful poems

Our favorites,

My brother

The lover of poetry,

And I, sister poet.

They still came, but when we called, and zipped her body our mother’s body, my closest person in the world,

Because we had become best friends in her later years before the dementia and who can ever share the soul of our beings like our Mothers?

They placed her body into that thick plastic

Blue black black navy blue bag

(What was its color?)

And how then is she going to breathe,

I thought?


I can’t make analogies in this poem

To drying garlic bulbs laid out like grave stones,

White birch trees that 10 years ago did not exist and now grow in a row thirty feet tall in the western light.

To the ancient great mother apple trees across my road where ghosts dance before my eyes,

To endless and always yapping coyotes in the distance here where I live,

Translucent pink poppies

A thick furred black bear running across the road before me

Three crows at the top of a dead tree flying away as I approach,

Porcupine waddling across the road disappearing

Into tall grasses,

Summer mist rising from the pavement,

Rain dripping from maple trees,

Whitetail deer that know what men do, looking back in fear,

Ravens calling from the tops of the trees behind my house all this summer.

Or can I? Can we?

Can we make analogies between what we most love

And this?


My mother’s father died when she was but sixteen and until her last days as an old woman of ninety-three, she cried every time she talked about her father.

I will do the same

The same the same the same the same

I am the same half buried half living half of me here in the hills half of me under the ground in a sprawling Jewish cemetery down a busy highway outside a far away city.


I’ve not yet gone back to just stand before their two graves in anything but imagination and dream.

I can’t can’t can’t how is that I disrespect them so?

So close they are to where my brother lives

Where his crazy wife has barred the way,

To me.

Yet, I could walk to Sharon Massachusetts in not too many days, carefully treading back roads

Make my way to this place this place

This awful desolate place of The Dead,

Where my parent’s bodies lay below the meadow,

Where there is a space left for me,

Unmarried daughter with no children, beside my two parents and my uncle, Sydney, brilliant MIT scientist, victim of a blotched lobotomy.


There, there is a place I do not want in this world.

But where one day

The white horses will pull my carriage

To that site where there are no swelling mounds on the ground no Cornices where all is flat, flat flat

Stretching out into the horizon past where the eyes can see lay Jews.

And I will be for eternity some way away from my grandmother, Katherine, my aunt Ruthie, beside my parents – Rena and Bennett –

And their whitening bones,

While songbirds sing to each other in the trees above we cannot (can no longer) hear.

© Susan Lynn Gesmer, 2017

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