Watching People Die

Watching People Die

I sat and watched her as she died.

My grandmother, Winnie.

Her skin, always white and weather beaten,

like leather by now, bleached right out

by the fags that took her breath away,

was wrinkled as the hide of some old beast,

which is what she never was.

Bright and true, she was, and wicked,

too full of love for her own good.

She loved me when she shouldn’t have,

and didn’t hurt me when she should.

I’ve still got her voice in my hand.

I caught it in her home one day,

and kept it on my phone. She says,

“I’m eighty-eight, eighty-nine soon.”

And then she pauses.

“I don’t feel it, though,” and then,

“I don’t act it, I don’t think it.”

And she didn’t, of course.

But I watched her die that day.

It’s my duty, watching people die.

Her breathing, slow and slowing,

her frilled lips blowing out her life,

until one last flutter silently said

goodbye forever.

My sister asked, “How was she,

at the end?”

“Dead,” I said,

and then we howled.

Winnie would have laughed.

Too soon years later, I watched once more

as her daughter followed her

through death’s door.

At the time, I didn’t cry.

It’s my duty, watching people die.

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