Jan Haag teaches journalism and creative writing at Sacramento City College where she is the chair of the journalism department and advises student publications. She is the author of Companion Spirit, a collection of poems about her husband’s death at the age of 48, published by Amherst Writers & Artists Press. She leads writing groups in Sacramento where the topic of grief and loss often arises. Read more of her beautiful writing here.

(after Raymond Carver)

He always said the years
after the meltdown — when blood vessels
inside his skull exploded —
were a bonus, that if evolution
really worked, he’d have been dead
by now.

He said the same thing
about the sixteen years after they
replaced his broken aortic valve with a
Teflon and plastic model, his heart
ticking away like a soft watch — or a
bomb, he’d say, raising his eyebrows,
silent movie villain-style.

He said it again, lying in
a hospital bed, that valve growing
an infection like mold on cottage cheese:
“It’s all gravy anyway. I got more
than I deserved.”

Which is why I imagine —
as that valve ticked off
the last minutes of his life —
when time stopped,
he must have sighed and
let the coffee cup drop to his lap,
never wanting to overstay his welcome.

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