Temple – a poem by Barbara Parchim

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.

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