In the house where a father lies dying,
grown-up daughters and sons
have begun surreptitiously grieving
while hospice nurses, like nuns,
murmur their grave observations:
the patient has passed beyond pain,
beyond intransigent passions
and the filial bonds that remain.
For years, when holiday suppers
gathered this clan to its seat,
the keeper of mores and manners
said grace before children could eat.
But now we are children no longer:
unsteady, a son takes the head
of a table where grandchildren hanker
for the roast and the unblessed bread.
2002, Alan Sullivan.
permission of the author.