Mueller
Purgatory
by Leah Mueller

Your body in a
single hospital bed,
tilted forward at dawn,

then backwards
in dusk’s half-light.

I am still waiting
for your own light
to extinguish Itself.

Your halting breaths.
Inhale, expand.
Exhale, contract.

Days become weeks;
legs relinquish movement,
eyes lose focus
and turn inward.

In our spare room,
a plastic commode and
two unused oxygen tanks.

Your bedstand holds
a pile of useless medicines—
chemicals, love tokens,
prayers of distant friends.

It all goes away,
eventually. Just a
matter of time and luck.

Not much remains
of either, but still
enough for you to enter

the portal one more day,
pupils awash
with stubborn hope.

PHOTO: Leah Mueller and husband Russ Van Rooy, who passed away on May 3, 2021.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I wrote this poem during my husband’s valiant fight with Stage 4 cancer, a fight he eventually lost. After his initial diagnosis, 21 months ago, I discovered he had reserves of strength that I never imagined. Cancer is a monstrous disease I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. It robs sufferers of everything they have. Russ and I opted for home hospice, and I stayed at his bedside until the end. It was by far the most difficult thing I have ever witnessed. Through the process of caregiving, however, I learned the true meaning of devotion and sacrifice.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Leah Mueller is an indie writer and spoken word performer from Bisbee, Arizona. Her most recent books, Misguided Behavior: Tales of Poor Life Choices (Czykmate Press), Death and Heartbreak (Weasel Press), and Cocktails at Denny’s (Alien Buddha Press) were released in 2019. Leah’s work appears in Midway Journal, Citron Review, The Spectacle, Miracle Monocle, Outlook Springs, Atticus Review, Your Impossible Voice, and elsewhere. Visit her at leahmueller.org and on Facebook and Twitter.