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  • Light Snow, and: At the End
  • Donald Platt (bio)

Light Snow

            All the morning's early hourssnow has fallen on the compost's dead leaves, quietly covering compacted            layers, has drifted down

upon the house of my wife's friend Mattie, a woman our age            who has hadlymphoma, a hip and two knees replaced, and now

            breast cancerso "advanced," as if the tumors were precocious students,            that it has spread

to her spine, liver, skull. She lives on morphine. The doctors            are afraidher spine will crumble like old, weathered limestone. At 6 AM

            I woke from a dreamin which my wife was writing down and reading aloud            to me all [End Page 76]

the things she wanted to do with the rest of her life:            finish her hundredsof rough drafts, loose leaves of poems scattered across the floor.

            She wanted to throw awaythe clutter in her study, keep it swept clean. Last night before going            to sleep, Dana told me

that her mother, as she lay dying of lung cancer, possessed only            five dresses,a favorite gold necklace and earrings, and one worry stone,

            smooth ovoidof white jade that she liked to hold. She had "purged"            or given away

everything else. It's time for me to make my own lists.            The things I mustrelinquish—bank accounts, job, car, continence, and finally

            sunlight. The thingsstill to do—complete the two books I'm working on, make a few            new friends, see my mother through

her last days, water the poinsettias, help my daughters grow up,            cook tonight's blackenedswordfish, artichokes with lemon butter, grow old, if I'm lucky,

            with the woman I love despitebeing attracted to men, look after my brother with Down syndrome,            retire to a rickety

house by the ocean, die. But all these plans, except for the last item,            can be altered at a moment'snotice or deferred for eternity. The snow has stopped. I go out [End Page 77]

            to walk the dogwhile simultaneously saying the rosary, as I do every day.            Hail Mary,

hail half inch of snow that covers the garbage strewn in the alley            by the dogswho have torn open the green trash bags so they spill

            their gutsin the ice-rutted back street. The sidewalk blinds me, is treacherous.            Hail the eaves' icicles

big as organ pipes, their hymns of sun and silence. A man in brown coveralls            blows snow offhis sidewalk with a leaf blower. Scintillant smoke,

            snow clouds swirlaround his thighs, then settle to the lawn. The ordinary            will go on.

Hail Mattie still alive. Hail your pain. Hail how lonely it is            to die alone,as each of us will. Hail your parents who wanted to die

            before youbut will not. Hail your stooped father's tears. Hail the new snow that makes            our black roofs shine. [End Page 78]

At the End

            Pain is whatI inherit. It is written that at the end the pain doctor            shall be our lord

and master. Some neighbor, friend, or blood relative will feel            compelled to help mestagger with a walker over new snow and pitch

            forward intothe backseat of his poorly heated car, beshit myself            but not go back

to the house to clean up. I will lie flat, drool on the cold vinyl            because it istoo painful to sit upright. Someone holds a live coal between

            tongs to the baseof my spine. I speak in tongues. My neighbor will not understand            these groans, grunts,

slobberings. Let the stench of shit arise from my fouled            loins like incenseto praise my maker. I am made in his vainglorious image,

            185 poundsof fat, bones, and muscle that will no longer obey            me. I am tied

and trussed, hog taken to market. At the hospital            I will be auctionedoff, put on a gurney, wheeled to exam rooms, [End Page 79]

            to Radiology.I am hooked to a vitals monitor. I wait for the coming            of our master

in all his anaesthetized glory. His ministering angels precede him,            give me oxygen,catechize me. What is the one...


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