​​H E R M E N E U T I C   C H A O S   J O U R N A L

​alina borger

Do Unto Others

Here is how dying happened 
in the McDermott family:
Something awful (stroke, heart attack)
took you to the hospital 
you died two days later. 
Or, if you aged, aged,
planned to take your time 
dying, you did at home
(perhaps an adult child’s home),
provided a progression of equipment— 
TV-magnifiers, walkers, toilet raisers, 
shower chairs, beds with sidebars. 

Your grandchildren ate anise squares 
and peppermints from your silky 
pockets, spent afternoons doing homework 
in your room (your dresser
turned desk for math problems),
watched your preferred soap opera 
on long, hot summer mornings. 

You were not hurried 
to the day when leaving
bed was impossible, but it 
arrived, everyone helped, maybe Hospice 
Your kids visited your bed
and listened for your breathing 
to change, called the others 
when it did. Everyone crowded 
into the room the moment
that you breathed your last. 
You peed your last too, 
and your family washed you 
tenderly, finally, before calling it,
phoning the funeral parlor.

Your grandchildren were taken 
to the mall for black 
dresses, suitable attire for viewing 
your dead body. They applied
permanent blusher, tinted the coffin
blue—your favorite color.
They waked you, buried you, 
held mass in your honor,    
hoped for similar mercies themselves 
in their distant final days,
but not too distant, no.

Alina Borger writes and teaches in Iowa City, IA. Her work has appeared most recently in The Mom Egg Review, Stirring, and Wherewithal. A complete list of her publications is available at www.alinaborger.com, or connect with her on Twitter @AliBG.