Temple The last word he said was “temple” it was startling because the word was so clear and he hadn’t spoken in days – I wondered what temple? Shinto? Buddhist? Mayan? This word, from my father, who lived his last years in the sordid squalor of a chronic hoarder – new clothes stacked in piles on the floor still in their plastic wrappers “but you never know when you might need them” and 15 years' worth of unopened junk mail in heaps that spilled over every surface mixed in amongst the “important stuff”, and a narrow path to the bathroom between towers of unopened CDs and DVDs and books piled on half of the bed because “who needs a whole bed to sleep, anyway?” I wanted to say “what temple?” but I would have had to shout and disrupt the night quiet of the nursing home because the hearing aids that didn’t work had been taken out weeks ago and I didn’t want to wake him from this sleep just hours from death his breathing already so shallow he’d been dreaming a lot lately and I marveled that this last dream was something so simple, wondered if the temple brought solace – I wanted to see it with him some last thing we could share together and wonder at or joke about because we had talked about sending some signal to prove there was something on the other side, was this it? except he wasn’t on the other side yet, so, I just held his hand, closed my eyes and imagined the singing of the quetzals at some Mayan ruin and waited
Barbara Parchim lives on a small farm in southwest Oregon. Retired from social work, she volunteered for several years at a wildlife rehabilitation facility. She enjoys gardening and wilderness hiking. Her poems have appeared (or are forthcoming) in Ariel Chart, Isacoustic, the Jefferson Journal, Turtle Island Quarterly, Windfall and Trouvaille Review. Her first chapbook has been selected by Flowstone Press to appear in 2021.