The machines in the frigid ICU were silent.
The IVs were stopped and so was her heart.
No respiration moved the sheet pulled over her face,
But the brain was still functioning, although weakly.
She was like a meteor that had fallen from space
Into the frosty night of the Arizona desert, her outer
Shell cold around a still warm but steadily chilling core.
She thought, so this is the end,
Just me and my dwindling consciousness.
And where, pray tell, is the tunnel with
A bright light at the end?
Where are the glimmering streets of gold?
Where are the relatives long passed away waiting to reunite?
Where is the Savior welcoming me with open arms?
Perhaps they all went the way of the Easter Bunny,
Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy and the end is just
A dark door that slowly creaks shut forever.
And as she lay in the gathering darkness with no new beginning
In sight, she decided to examine the beginning of the end.
Did it start when she came to the hospital, dependent and broken?
Or maybe it was when that arrogant prick in the white coat
Revealed the prognosis, sitting behind a mahogany desk
With his stethoscope and normal life expectancy.
In fact, the slide probably began when she noticed
A shortness of breath while walking fast
Across the platform to catch the “A” train.
Or it could have started when she felt an occasional twinge
Of pain in her chest while going up a flight of stairs.
Even before that it could have begun when her
Confidence eroded and she was obsessed with examining
Her body for lumps, repeatedly taking her pulse and blood pressure.
And then she grasped it, as if she had carefully excavated
The layers of an Egyptian tomb to behold the secrets of the Pharaohs.
The beginning of the end, when the meteor at its apogee
Began its decent, was the day she discovered
Her husband had been a serial philanderer.
And since she would probably not be welcoming him to heaven,
She mustered her last few millivolts of brain activity trying to imagine
How he would look burning in hell, just in case there was one.
William Ogden Haynes is a poet and author of short fiction from Alabama who was born in Michigan and grew up a military brat. He has published three collections of poetry, Points of Interest, Uncommon Pursuits and Carvings. Over a hundred of his poems and short stories have appeared in literary journals and his work is frequently anthologized.