Driving Dad to Quadruple Bypass

The Ouachita Mountains, where you’ve come
to live out the end of your life—

            an end
            you’ve been whittling at for twenty years—

in pre-dawn light are imposing,
tree-lined backs of serpents,
of monsters long spoken of
in hushed whispers
that earn derisive laughs
at church picnics.

These beasts hold back the dawn.
On the prairies where you raised me,
the sun explodes up, the light fills my eyes,
the morning forty weeks pregnant with promise,
great with threat.

Among these beasts, we ride
Arkansas State Highway 8.

Along the road, farm ponds,
the Caddo River, DeGray Lake, and all their arterial farm creeks
lay, unwaking,
under blankets of fog.

You are quiet in the passenger seat—
in a few hours, they will open
your seventy-nine-year-old chest
and try to give us all more time.

You make a little small talk,
but you’re stuttering, using the wrong words,
then falling silent again.

The sun is winning over the Ouachitas.

The fog on the ponds
starts to glow in the light,
starts to rise—

up, up, up,
and then gone.