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.