THE AVERAGE NUMBER OF BREATHS TAKEN IN TWO DAYS
Hospice said they don’t bathe them
when they’re like this. Two days ahead
of death, he slept rhythmically, puffing
breaths of a mummy into the living
room’s linen air. He asked to die
where Pat was, so we made up the rented
bed into a cocoon of blue sheets
and pillows, kept separate his knees and ankles.
I woke throughout the night
to drop morphine under his cracked
tongue and log the time and dosage
beneath the others. But all I really wanted was
to watch him breathe in the dark, to witness
the last fifty thousand moths fly from his lips,
to paint his face gold and black, surround
his body with a tribute of canned tuna, a TV
guide, Vienna sausages. I wanted to cry when
only he would hear. To tell him he was a burden
I was willing to bear, but thank him for not
letting me carry it too long.
Lara Hamidi-Ismert is an Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona. Her publications appear in Communications in Mathematical Physics and New York Journal of Math. In 2019, Lara earned a PhD in mathematics from the University of Nebraska after earning a BA in creative writing and a BS in mathematics from Pittsburg State University in Kansas. When she’s not researching quantum mechanics, she enjoys writing poetry and short fiction, acting in theatre productions, hiking with her husband, and scooping her four cats’ litter boxes.