The Riveter

Ada Limón

What I didn’t say

when she asked me

why I knew so much

about dying, was that,

for me, it was work.

When Dad called to say

we had a month, I made a list.

I called in my team

to my office in a high rise,

those Rosies of know-how,

those that had lost someone loved,

those that had done the assembly line

of a home death, and said,

What’s this about not keeping

her on TPN? One woman,

who was still soft with sadness

said, It depends on whether

she wants to die of heart failure

or to drown in her own fluids.

I nodded, and wrote that down

like this was a meeting

about a client who wasn’t happy.

What about hospice? I asked.

They said, They’ll help,

but your Dad and you guys

will do most of it.

I put a star by that.

We had a plan of action.

When this happens, we do this.

When that happens, we do that.

But what I forgot

was that it was our plan,

not hers, not the one doing the dying,

this was a plan for those

who still had a next.

See, our job was simple:

keep on living. Her job was harder,

the hardest. Her job,

her work, was to let the machine

of survival break down,

make the factory fail,

to know that this war was winless,

to know that she would singlehandedly

destroy us all.

about the author