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.