In the final hours,
my grandfather’s emaciated belly
rises and falls beneath quilt and coverlet.

Beside him, the heart monitor’s erratic chirps
are drowned by the sound of the wallpaper
separating from its old stubborn glue.
Atop a stepstool, my aunt fumbles
with the curled, yellowed edges,
tearing it along the seam.
She pauses halfway through to unplug the morphine,
shimmies her father’s headboard away from the wall,
and continues to rip apart patterns.
His wheeze turns rattle, as she spreads new glue
and strokes the pink into place.

Her kids raid the closet,
laying claim to the Craftsman tools,
John Deere collectables, and Christmas gifts
some still donned with ribbons,
others encased in plastic.

In the morning
a hospice nurse enters to count the pills
he had not swallowed in weeks,
only to find bottles, missing and empty,
my aunt’s heavy eyelids nodding in the corner,
cigarette burns on her fingers,
drool pooling on her blouse,
the morphine plug on the floor,
a full days relief
in the bag on the pole,
and, on the bed,
a good man longing
to feel it empty.


Daniel Ruefman is an emerging poet. His work has most recently appeared in The Tonopah Review, Temenos, Fertile Source, Flagler Review, Burningword, and SLAB. He currently lives in Wisconsin, where he teaches writing at the University of Wisconsin—Stout.