Wayne Michael DeHart (February, 1997)
His heart expired at sunset with no one at his side.
The hospital bed was slowly stripped of its linen
by the amiable nurse’s aide who had winked at him
and smiled each time she captured his gaze.
Nary a flower nor a card had graced his room.
The young girl wondered how a man so endearing
could be forsaken by family and friends
as he struggled through his final days.
The doctors had prepared him for the coming of his Night.
The news did not surprise him and he shrugged it off
with a simple nod and drifting thoughts about the irony
of having worked his life away to never be retired.
For days thereafter he watched the door through hopeful eyes.
Maybe his brother or a neighbor or someone from work
would stop by and wish him well and remind him
that he had been respected and admired.
But he knew that no one would come and sit down by his bed.
His had been a private life of unattended needs;
endless hours of solitude and solitaire
and sleepless dreams under unshared covers.
He once gave his heart to an Asian woman who promised him forever.
But she left in the night of their eighty-seventh day
and he realized he would never again find such wonder
in the silent, barren touch of casual lovers.
In his fiftieth year a vicious cancer ravaged his insides.
His restless mind was cluttered in his twilight hours
with what-ifs and should-haves and lifelong regrets
of one who knows he will soon be dead.
He was certain that his passing would hardly be noted.
But while the rest of the staff took the flatline in stride
the nurse’s aide, an Asian girl, sat down where no one had
right next to the empty bed.
She bid him Good Night and wished him stars in his sky.
Eyes closed, she paused for a breath,
remembering his face, embracing his grace –
before rising with a wink and a smile.
She sensed somehow that in passing
he had found what he had missed.
Because the girl who touched the spirit
of the man without a wife
was, unknown to both,
his only child.