Last Offices

Fatty tumors bulging,
Mom’s bluetick stumbles
up porch steps. She

was a pup when Dad landed
in long-term care, a vent pumping
all the breath he’d ever need.

Voice-robbed, he’d mouth this sucks
to any who’d ask, his body thinning
against sheets, trached and laid-up.

Chattering, Mom smooths
his greasy hair, helps him shave
before the nurses show

for what will be
his final sponge bath.
Fifteen years later, Mom’s adding

cold bits of steak
to a tooth-marked bowl,
soaping paws and flanks

until the dog smells newborn
at this ending where the vet
lights a votive and a shot

renders fur quiet and still,
nose dry in which the scent
of my father is long dead.

My mother left
with only the sparking
memory of his touch.

Fred Shaw

Fred Shaw was named Emerging Poet Laureate Finalist for Allegheny County in 2020. He is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, and Carlow University, where he received his MFA.  He teaches writing and literature at Point Park University and Carlow University. His first collection, Scraping Away, was recently published by CavanKerry Press. A book reviewer and Poetry Editor for Pittsburgh Quarterly, his poem, “Argot,” is featured in the 2018 full-length documentary, Eating & Working & Eating & Working.  The film focuses on the lives of local service-industry workers. His poem “Scraping Away” was selected for the  PA Public Poetry Project in 2017.  He lives in Pittsburgh with his wife and rescued hound dog.