Though his taste buds were dying and every meal
made him grimace and wonder out loud
why we were such lousy cooks, he kept on
hungering for remembered dishes—
lobster Cantonese, corned beef,
bacon and eggs, a good strong mug of joe—
and we who wanted him stronger
seized on this longing, brought plate after plate
to his bed. One bite. He'd spit it out
and start musing on his next desire.
A Manhattan. Pork tacos. A Cuban cigar.
We took turns heaving a shopping cart
aisle by florescent aisle, dodging
Christmas carols, canned comfort and joy,
hesitant, as if the perfect choice
could save him or at least could buy
a day or two. We loaded up on juice—
—pineapple, mango, tamarind, banana—
after he'd taken a single sip
and leaned back on the pillow, sated.
Sweets became the last thing he could taste—
Häagen Dazs, Ensure, vanilla yogurt.
He was diabetic, we couldn't tell:
were we killing him faster? Sometimes,
when we urged him—a sip, just one sip, Daddy—
he would comply, meek and eager to please,
and other times glower, his brown-green eyes
hard as marbles. His flesh waned,
curling before us like paper in flame.
Still, there remained one taste
he could enjoy, an orange freeze pop
in its plastic cylinder. He'd hold it
with relief, drink a few sips
of melted ice, then fall asleep,
the magic wand still in his hand.
We'd tuck it safely back
among the freezer's frosted-over tubs
and like the loaves and fishes it never
seemed to run out, still there each time
we opened the freezer, still there
after he died, a waning
quarter moon, its crayon brightness
filmed thinly with ice, the flavor
of something approaching hope.