Poetry / Lara Hamidi-Ismert

‘The Average Number of Breaths
Taken in Two Days’

Issue 3. January 15, 2022

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.