I go to my father’s room to take him to dinner and find him
face down on the floor. Thinking he’s dead I say Daddy?

I think I’m at the end of my string he says so I call 911.
He wants me to pick him up but he’s dead

weight. I call an aid for help and between us we get him
into his chair where she checks vitals— okay!

EMTs come check vitals again okay again
but my father says something’s not right so they slide him

into their Cab-u-Lance, a repurposed delivery van,
to take him to ER. Lying on a rack where bread loaves

were meant to be he watches me out the back window
as I follow in my rental car and I know what he’s thinking—

you’re following too close but I’m afraid I might lose them
lose him he’s 96 he said something’s not right.

The usual rain-fog but I see my father through window
grinning at me— shit-eating?

embarrassed by all of this fuss? just happy I’m here?
I smile back thinking how he called life a string how string

ties things together comes on a ball all
big and amorphous at first a whole life to unravel

and the more string comes off, the closer you get to
the heart where there’s no surprise nothing

inside just the end of a string.


Jeanne-Marie Osterman is from Everett, Washington. She is the author of There’s a Hum (Finishing Line Press). A 2018 finalist for the Joy Harjo Poetry Award, her work has appeared in Bluestem, The Madison Review, SLAB, The Esthetic Apostle, and Cathexis Northwest, and will soon appear in Oregon State University’s 45th Parallel Magazine. Jeanne-Marie earned a BA from Gonzaga University and an MA in Linguistics from San Francisco State. She lives in New York City where she serves as Assistant Poetry Editor for Cagibi Literary Magazine.