Ubasute: Carrying Life to Death’s Mountain

I listen to his wheeze
and watch the machine ascend
for a full breathe then
fall back down again
and know I must trek
to the mountain once again.

Like my mother, heedless of
self and for my sake,
will he snap twig after
twig to point my safe return?

She died clutching a small cross,
a loblolly branch,
her bones resting on
Appalachian
soil, open to the sky and
animals delight
like her ancestors.

She was a feather.
He is a boulder.
I can’t lift him on my back.
He will roll down the mountain.
I can only drag him
and watch the pebbles and dirt
cascade down to their beginnings.
Pull him to last breath.

I hear a twig snap
and his hand falls to his side.
I release him to the dirt
and the mountain cradles him
as I stumble home.

“I will pick you up after
chemo,” my wife says
the next day, as I watch her
drive down the mountain
road, listening to
branches snapping in the fog.