“An Autumn Rain-Scene” by Thomas Hardy

There trudges one to a merry-making
With sturdy swing,
On whom the rain comes down.

To fetch the saving medicament
Is another bent,
On whom the rain comes down.

One slowly drives his herd to the stall
Ere ill befall,
On whom the rain comes down.

This bears his missives of life and death
With quickening breath,
On whom the rain comes down.

One watches for signals of wreck or war
From the hill afar,
On whom the rain comes down.

No care if he gain a shelter or none,
Unhired moves on,
On whom the rain comes down.

And another knows nought of its chilling fall
Upon him at all,
On whom the rain comes down.

Thomas Hardy

“Thud” by Mark McNease

Mark McNease

Mark McNease

You called out my name

and fell, a thud sounding

down the hall. That’s what I recall.

A moment. A pained expression.

An outcry.

I have cried out since when possible,

stone-faced, taking it on the chin.

Your good boy, referring to you

as My dead mother when telling a story.

A sister’s call came

on an otherwise repetitive day,

working away, as we work our lives

away, telling me results had come back.

Two round circles in the left lung

keeping each other company,

a cancerous, prospering community

of cells gone mad, fruitful and multiplying.

I dropped the phone and cried.

This was a well-worn path, I had a map.

Time would accelerate.

The life expectancy offered would be

on the mark, and I wanted to do it right

this time, to have nothing left to haunt me

with what I hadn’t done or said.

I asked if I should come home.

You said maybe later, “You know,

when the time comes.” But the time

had come, becoming now with that call.

Waiting was too risky, the morphine was

just around the corner and I knew

when we turned it you would be gone.

It was a long awful summer.

I listened through the wall

in the blue bedroom, Father talking

as if you could help it, furious, why

were you doing this to him?

Incoherent conversation

broken by long silence at the dinner table,

you staring into nothingness, unable to swallow.

Father telling anecdotes about the neighbor

who had a lung transplant, goddamn the doctors

for saying you wouldn’t live through it,

they must be wrong, young and uncaring.

Back and forth from New York

knowing what was coming, I quit

my job, life was so short, I had

the evidence, dreams expired with time.

Autumn and your 50th anniversary, the last

good night you had, pretty and poised.

And from there a quick good-bye.

You’d done your utmost, you’d held on.

Christmas morning, comatose, your breathing

labored, and I said, She won’t last long.

I knew, I was familiar with a last day.

Dinner that evening, my sister coming

to the table as we finished, saying

it was over. Dead mother, stiff, sunken

between the bedrails, you’d gone.

Goddamn it, I thought, late again.

I never saw the last breath, I only guessed

you’d left with a sigh and in the time it took

to hurry to the bedroom you’d flown far away,

leaving behind snapshots and a son.

Mark McNease

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