When my grandmother was dying
in her soft bed in the corner
of my aunt’s farmhouse kitchen,
we all sat with her, even the children
staring at the white, shut face,
masked in a rapture of its own
while all the noisy racket of death
filled the air, lungs letting go,
blood about to rise in a purple wash,
the pot of bones knocking,
in a fury to stay behind, stay with us.
Or perhaps the soul was rattling
its grip, a last hold on life,
giving the body one final slap,
she shuddered and trembled so, then
shook it all off and turned away.
I knew when the spirit left, her body
cold and floury, so still. We gave her
bed rail one last shove, helping
give her over to whatever pulled at her
from that other world. She no longer waited
as women wait but held forth one arm,
buoyant as that white branch the angel brought
both to warn and to comfort.