No hourglass, more like a windswept dune, blazing sun and footing that shifts
just before I step. Seemed solid, now I fall, again, and look back at the
hollow traces of my scrambling, as if to read my mistake, to learn
something, anything, from these bruises. Heat shimmers at the
horizon tempt me to change course, again, knowing their
promise will lead to nothing but more sand falling away
at each step. I refocus on the IV drip, the drool
from my father’s mouth and his clear
blue eyes, hoping to find some
clarity of mind behind them.
Last week it was hospice,
this, the hospital,
and next, a
nursing home,
the faint mirage
of full recovery dazzling
his event horizon. How can I
center amidst the ups and downs of
diagnoses and prognoses and expectations?
Grains of sand slip through the impossible narrowness,
to find a resting place among their comrades, at least until the
inevitable upheaval and another scramble for stability, like his brain
trying to absorb the blood of three falls. Will healing prevail this time,
or must a place be made at the oasis for its opposite? Luck and resilience
run out with age, systems fade, and truly undiscovered territory awaits. I offer
a hand, shape the sand for his steps, put a straw to his lips and wipe the dribble.

Just as I accept this downturn
he zings a one liner and laughs –
it ain’t over until Kate Smith sings “God Bless America.”

The wind billows his battered flag in my backyard,
and I pray he can salute it with what remains of his eyes,
and not from a cellphone photo.

I brush the sand from my eye
to let my tears bless the ground –
no ashes for you yet.


Blaise Kielar received Honorable Mention in the 2022 Alex Albright Creative Nonfiction Prize for an excerpt from his memoir in progress, "Be Heard: The Quiet Kid Who Started the World’s Loudest Violin Shop." He opened Chapel Hill’s first violin shop in 1978 and retired from a music retail career by transitioning Electric Violin Shop into the first worker-owned co-op music store in the United States. He plays jazz violin and clarinet in several bands and leads the Bulltown Strutters, Durham’s community New Orleans brass band.

One Comment

  1. This is beautiful and heart felt and so well describes the many thoughts that run alternately through one’s head at these times. Thank you for sharing this.

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