Unfinished conversation with my father

Wheat and Wormwood, Hilma af Klint

I felt my father’s last breath, watching
with my mother beside him. His hand
in mine as we felt its exhalation; steady,
and the lost words became silence.
It was a release from his desperate,
insistent plea of ‘how long?’, as he lifted
three distressful fingers to measure out
his longing for death, as the tumour
devoured his brain. We could not answer
his endless staccato question or end its
bitter loop; but only hold his haunted gaze,
that still fixes mine now, when there is so
much still to say; when loss has robbed us
of conversation, he still tells me I failed him.

He hears my answer as just more empty

I could not help you die. You demanded
I get you a rope, staggering like a zombie,
chased me to the garden shed. I got a
length of washing line, hoping it would not
take your weight. I dialled neighbours and
paramedics who came with platitudes and
you called us all idiots because we could
not give you the death you craved. It was
just us trapped in the standoff of dialogue
and I persuaded you the hospital could
give you a lethal injection. After that my
mind is a blur of gurneys and expletives.

Dad, you knew I understood what you
needed most. I could not give you what
you wanted. When I can bear to hold the
weight of your reproach, it tightens like
the noose I would not make for you: I would
have done it if I could, until death stepped in,
with the final word.