An Act of Love
The nurse removes her nitrile gloves
and throws them in the trash,
after she and one of the orderlies
have hoisted my father back into his bed.
A moment before I had assisted them,
as they struggled to position his bare-bone hips
onto the toilet seat, the space
between his concave waist and his purple
corrugated thighs, where sex once thrived,
now just a small section of cracked hose
lost among tufts of graying weeds.
My father starts to cry. “I never thought,”
he moans, “That it would come to this.
“That you would have to do these things
“to help me as I die.” I stare
into his fading blue but still familiar eyes.
“There’s not so much I actually do,”
I measuredly reply. “Except to sit
“contentedly by your side. Nothing
“that I know you also wouldn’t do for me.”
But he has already started to slip into that state,
not asleep, but not awake, unaware of my reply,
transported to some enchanted staging land,
where he greets old friends long passed away,
and converses with the other denizens,
mostly musicians from what I understand,
who are to help him on his way.
So, I stand up from my bedside chair,
lean over him to say good-bye
and kiss him on his head, a man,
who, with loving sadness, surrenders
that which he must lose to time and age.
of waiting in the car
with all the windows closed
for the expected tug and clank
of the motorized claw
to pull us through
an invariable sequence
of predetermined ritual.
I always loved
the darkening when
the sudsy rollers brushed the car.
And the sudden deafening downpour
and the rivulets which swarmed
the windows and the hood.
But my favorite was
the whirlwind roar
of the air jets
we had just withstood.
Keith Dunlap’s work has appeared in numerous journals, including The Baltimore Review, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, The Carolina Quarterly, Ninth Letter, and Poet Lore. Hip Pocket Press published his first collection, Storyland, in 2016.