Death Rattle

Published in Gold Man Review (2018)

The maracas, hung crisscross over your dresser
that on rainy days you would take down, and
let me play while you danced for me,
shaking your hips.

Your mother’s silver rattle,
passed to me with stories of
Cossacks shaking floorboards
while she was born below.
Teeth in Russian winters; piano keys,
clacking, each time the baby grand was hoisted
into another Lower East Side tenement.

Sifting through your button box,
your strands of beads, your lipsticks.
And the urgent rattle of dice.
How we loved games of chance!

The click and chatter of pebbles
being pulled into the sea,
as we walked the cold surf,
arms locked, heads bent to each other.
Ice in gin and tonics on the patio.

Now, the week’s pills,
being arranged in ice trays,
like a game of Mancala.
A bit of juice through a straw.
The oxygen machine.

I hear it all in your last breath,
your breath that I want to breathe in and hold,
until I cannot hold it anymore.