Dad’s Last Shave

The reek of alcohol,
burnt cigarettes

pervade air encircling
his hospital bed.

Lifting his clammy head,
upturn damp-stained pillow.

Gray-black stubble covers his face,
disguising rutted, swollen results
of lifetime of craving.

Drawing shuddering breath
I ask,

“Would you like me to shave you?”

Dad nods consent.

Retrieve shaving kit from bed stand,
dampen face with moist cloth,
whip lather with brush, soap in cup,
apply to face,

under his wary eyes.

Each razor stroke
tracking against bristles
peels away layer
of heartbreak between us.

Soft towel tenderly
removes residual lather.

Dad’s face turns toward me,
our eyes converge,

pause,

then dart away.

A tear descends his cheek.

Our moist eyes
reflect a moment of vulnerability.

“Dad, will you be glad you bare
a supple countenance
when embraced by Jesus?”

We kiss goodbye.

Dad dies next morning.

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David was a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist for 35 years before the publication of his first collection of poems, “A Heart on Fire, Poems from the Flames.” He continues to write poetry and makes presentations on poetry of Eastern and Western Mystics and leads poetry workshops as a faculty member of OLLI College at the University of Southern Maine. David is a regular contributor to KindnessOverMatter. David plays the “Shakuhachi,” a Japanese bamboo flute used in Zen Buddhist meditation and celebration. He combines his flute music with poetry readings. He has taught Tibetan and Western poetry to Buddhists monks at Sera Jhy Tibetan Buddhist Monastery in South India. He earned his Master of Theology and Ph.D. in Pastoral Psychology degrees from Boston University. You can follow David on his website.

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