Breaking My Father Out of the Hospice Unit to Go to the Italian Market

Even the magnolia was incredulous 
at its bloom, the glass doors agape 
behind us as we rolled him out,
still gowned, onto the blinding 
sidewalk. Dad’s chair barely fit 
down the aisles of amaretti, olives, 
each pasta shape its own regioni, 
the small store crowded and warm,
the owner accommodating with his 
nods. We thought we could reach for 
peaches or look into the murky 
crock of escarole soup or stack 
pizzelles and maybe get another 
dozen years. We all did it: swabbed 
bread cubes in oil and grabbed
that deliciously stubborn, broken 
biscotti, working it long in the mouth. 
What can I say except we’d taken 
turns in a faded green chair for seven 
days, sobs wedged in the solar plexus 
like a vise, Mom on repeat: These people
have a goal, my brother knowing the right 
drug to keep Dad from becoming 
sedated, and me finding the one willing 
surgeon. I still feel the aliveness of that 
precise moment we changed
our minds—that glimmer, that urgency 
to celebrate, an effervescence that comes 
from resolve. He died three long
years later. What I’m saying is forgive 
me, Father. Forgive me, Mother. I’m saying
what stays with me most is the swerving, 
how we rolled Dad over winter’s new 
cracks, around potholes of East Liberty, 
skidding on the gritty spring ash, my brother 
pushing, Mom, I think, to the left,
me to the right, the masses of bystanders 
pointing, laughing, waving as we navigated 
a park, a Wendy’s parking lot, the GetGo 
gas station, workers with their thumbs up 
smoking outside the back of a diner, but we 
had to stay focused, tried not to look back,
and I can’t quiet those voices even now; even now 
I still hear them: the wow, where do you think
they’re headed? What are they doing? What
the hell are they doing?

Janine Certo is the author of five books, most recently, O Body of Bliss, winner of the Longleaf Press Book Contest in Poetry (Longleaf Press, 2022), and Elixir, winner of both the New American Poetry Prize and the Lauria/Frasca Poetry Prize (New American Press and Bordighera Press, 2021). A winner of Nimrod International Journal’s Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry, recent poems appear in the Cincinnati Review and Poetry Northwest.