We brought Richard the small bouquet
wrapped in cellophane. The girl fitted the top
with lavender string. He leaned up
and gazed at the rose
its warm eternal burgundy
broke through the wall of unimportance
death had raised around him.
Chatted for an hour about small stuff
until the brightness in his eyes faded
into sanitized and heavily starched sheets;
a shiftless aide swabbed
the hospital floor with a mop
grey from use
as the young nurse with dark hair
delivered the next round of morphine
like she was filling her car.
Richard, a nurse himself, was
acquainted with the burlesque of dying.
We all have to go through this someday,
he said. Stroked his arm before leaving
with a gentle petting motion,
pretended we would see him again,
a frail lie as white as his shoulders
hand and fingernails floated off the bed
like a dogwood limb
on a Sunday afternoon in June.
Searched for something else to say,
but last words are what they are.
We left the hospital dazed
our minds tangled in a web
of memories that beamed
in the distance like a lighthouse
over the waves of Lake Ontario;
peered deep into the eyes
of every person we passed
on the way to the car,
exhausted every call for meaning.
Should anyone ask,
he was here and then he wasn’t.

Tim Louis Macaluso is an openly gay poet, writer, and award-winning journalist. He has worked in media for much of his career. Most recently, he was a staff writer for CITY Newspaper in Rochester, NY. His poetry has appeared in numerous print and online publications.