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The William Gilmore Simms Prize, Spring 2012
Ed Madden
That Day
He’d stopped responding, his body
no longer him. We watched for signs—

the ones in the blue book with the ship
sinking on the cover, but nothing

beyond the too-regular gasp of breathing,
one hand swollen, propped on a pillow.

We ate our lunch; nothing was real.
There were no signs. His body

was him and he was his body, thin,
immobile, still breathing, shitting.

We lifted him with the sheet to change
him, my brother holding it while

my mother and I did what needed
to be done, apologizing to him.

That day, we were waiting,
my mother going through a basket

of mail on her bed, turning her head
for a moment, and when she turned

back, my dad had stopped breathing.
It was just like that. He stopped.

And the sun still shining, my brother
on the mower in the back yard,

me kneeling, weeding a flower bed
in the thick heat, picking, then,

at that moment, a tick off my arm.

©2012 Ed Madden