Your final birthday at ninety years.
"A nice round number" was all you said.
My tears slipped out like dirty pennies,
ketchup on a pillowcase.
I knew you were up to something here.
Something that I could not face.
Your fingers on the wrapping paper--
wilted, weathered fuchsia buds.
Fresh green parsley of your veins
fading into seaweed brine.
I studied maps of olding's game.
Wanting to plant a row of tulips
underneath your kitchen sill.
Thick dark clouds
like bean paste on tortilla flats.
Flipping through torn photographs,
grief's menu had its way with me.
You wouldn't let me leave that night.
Pretended that you'd hide my keys.
Company had disappeared.
Dishes stacked and rinsed and dried.
I drew you a long hot bath,
fondled the whispers of whitened hair,
lit a candle near the tub.
Sat beside your frail frame--
aching to wash your glassy back
like bases of a chandelier
that lit up hallways of my life.
I fiddled some with sentiments,
brought you the top
of your birthday cake.
We stuck our knuckles in its butter,
knowing time was gaining ground.