died in a hospital bed in her bedroom
on Oak St.
i went in, saw her lying there deathly still
while my dad stood beside me, telling me
to say goodbye.
at age seventeen no one knows
how to say goodbye—nor i love you
i touched her face—wrinkled yet smooth
like the screen door that flapped open
as my cousins came in.
across the bed my Uncle Joey (a drunk
and my dad's youngest uncle)
he knew he had not been the apple
of my great-grandmother's eyes:
more like a sour grape.
he limps from a tire iron
and too much whiskey one night:
he smells like bourbon and cigarettes.
holding her still-warm hand
he cries Mom, Mom!
it's all okay, Mom.
at age seventeen i know
that failure smells a lot like
cigarettes and bourbon.
i leave—my sisters wail
and my mother stands solemn
as my dad holds her:
we watch grandma get wheeled
from her room and wonder
who is going to make Christmas Eve dinner tomorrow.