Six Words About His Life
I knew. For years he kept the curtains closed
and paper-clipped together, stayed inside
slumped in a reclining chair, fingering papers,
ringing a small brass bell each time for pills
and the maid to bring his fraying pale blue ledger
every two hours, in this house precise as death.
The same strict hours codify years like death,
each hour like the others with curtains closed
to light. When he opens his desk-sized ledger,
the maid knows to wait quietly inside
herself and cuts his food the size of pills.
He sniffs his fingers before he touches papers.
The lawyer visits to finalize his papers
and the fortune to survive his actual death;
institutions and the makers of his pills
will share his name forever after he’s closed
his correcting eyes on all numbers inside
the long columns of his hand-written ledger.
The hours keep an hourly schedule – the ledger,
the pills, time for sleeping and more papers.
He has enough pencils and eyeshades inside
his drawers for many lives beyond his death.
The bedroom door rattles if it’s closed,
and alarms dictate the next time for pills.
One year at dawn he took too many pills –
the doctor, just in time, found the ledger
by his side and, keeping the news undisclosed,
prescribed a new regimen of pills. The papers
mounted for the lawyer later. After his death
he will quickly burn and be packed inside
a small box, his cold ashes dropped inside
the cove he nearly drowned in as a child. Pills,
it’s time again for pills. After his death,
his celebrated death, the probated ledger
of his life will headline a few Sunday papers.
The curtains will be opened, the ledger closed.
The lawyer threw out the ledger and mounds of papers,
the maid disposed of pills. I hovered inside
bare rooms and closed up for my father’s death.