Just Before

In a hospital room

I stand next to your son,

watching you drift

in and out of consciousness.

I give you flowers,

their stems clipped.

You drop them in a pan

of shallow water.


Outside, I can see the bus station

near the last stop on the subway line.


Remember when you moved to Mount Airy,

on the second floor? We talked all night

about politics. Then Watergate broke, and

you foresaw that Nixon would fall.

You always drove me home

pounding your palms on the steering wheel.


Kamal takes a napkin and wipes your mouth—

“Are you hungry Mom, do you want a drink?”—

while I keep asking if you know my name.

You raise yourself and say it once,

just before you fall back.

Since 1990, Robert Coles has published over one hundred poems in various literary journals, anthologies, and magazines. His most recent poems have appeared in Peregrine (Spring 2017), Mudfish (vol. 20, 2018/vol. 21, 2020/vol. 22, 2021), and Cura Magazine (Fordham University, Spring 2019).