Off the Shelf
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Significant Breaths

A flannel button-up and house shoes wear a man
Sitting to my left, with a right ear just trying to keep up appearances;
Just as deaf to the echo of firework safety
As to my voice

But this couch,
This house, is not built of nostalgia.
Flimsy particle board box with no memory,
Just “old man accessible” amenities.
Could you compare the love for an antique door knocker,
Left behind,
To the love for a walk-in shower?

Years down the drain.
(What would you do with those years if…
If you stoppered the drain, collecting, hoarding,
Regretting, loathing,

Sixty-eight years young, two children, two wives, still…
Too young to suffocate on fresh air.
For the invisible band tightening around his chest,
His breath,
His walk, his talk,
His laugh.
His death, which he pronounces so scientifically,
Feet planted,
Rooted in our acronyms: COPD.

Close enough to smell aftershave,
The letters make the word sound distant.
Or perhaps just the sentiment.

Every week, less energy;
Every month, more clarity.
Apply for a long life;
Live a full one.

Feed him on oxygen,
For pain,
With despair.
Find him already full,
From a telephone call with his grandson.

A genuine goodbye is better than a compassionate see-you-later.

Keenan Hogan Keenan Hogan (4 Posts)

Contributing Writer

University of Kansas School of Medicine

Class of 2017 medical student at the University of Kansas School of Medicine.