"The Poem": A Short Story

Updated on April 28, 2017

“Do not go gentle into that good night…” She said.

He exhaled in relief, finally he was being listened to, someone understood that his last moments were still his and not the priest’s, the doctor’s, or the family and friends'. They were his. And his daughter had given them back to him, for what minutes he had left.

She was fighting. Battling against the reality that her father had wanted to die and that reading this to him would inevitably suspend him into the odious aftermath that was foretold as his end. As she read, the tears began to crawl down the sides of her cheekbones, plummeting onto the paper that held the words that her father had yearned to hear.

“Old age should burn-“

“I can’t Dad! I just can’t!” She held her arm to her forehead, shielding herself from view of him.

“NO!” His faint attempt at a voice crackled.

He paused to breathe, realizing that he didn’t have the vitality to thoroughly express his sentiments.

“No…” he whispered to her.

It was all that he had the energy to say, one word that still held weight in the relationship between them.

When she was a child her father had found her in the study. She was encompassed by a barrage of his books laying in a fashion that was antithetical to the impressive display he had furnished on the shelves. As he took his steps closer, he began to become lugubrious at the sight of her. She was tearing the pages of his books down to mere words, the pieces of paper turning into ash littering the air until it hit the dark mossy colored floor. He could see the names of authors which he had admired and strived to be like on the hollowing covers, now shells of the inspiration and joy they had once brought to him.

He took his time approaching her, keeping a pace that produced an aura of equanimity that was almost natural to him. His daughter was so preoccupied with her fun that she didn’t take a notice to him until she heard his voice.

“Andrea…?” he whispered softly, and inquisitively.

She looked up, smiling at the sight of her father. She was always overjoyed to see him, he had a calming look about him that made her feel safe no matter what was happening in her world.

“What Papa?” she said in an innocence that would slay the bitterest of spirits.

And he said that one word to her in such a way that even made himself feel a sense of guilt and gloom, but he would never admit it to her. He needed to show her what to value in the world, and she was surrounded by value.

From that moment onward, Andrea’s father had only said “No” to her in such a way twice more in her life. Once, when she turned seventeen. And now one last time, on his deathbed.

She was now staring at the shell that was supposed to be the man that she looked up to, withering away like the books that she had torn apart all those years ago. It was largely because of her father that she became the woman who was now standing in front of the bed. Someone who was now questioning why they would dread the passing of a loved one. Because the soon-to-be deceased would not have a part in this world or because the dread would not be bearable to the person witnessing it?

She fought to continue reading to him.

“Old age should burn and rave at close of day…”

She could see from the corner of her eye, that his dry lips had begun to curve into a smile that he couldn’t help but form as he heard the words. It was that same thoughtful smile that he wore throughout his days when he knew something that no one else was partial to. Andrea was the only person that had some understanding of it- it was a reflection of his soul.

“Rage…Rage…against the dying of the light.”

“Though wise men at their end, know that dark is right, because their words had forked no lighting, they do not, go gentle into that good night.”

“Rage… Rage… Against the dying of the light…”

She looked up to find the bed, that had been in place for so long, that had held her father for months, was now shaking.

Andrea dropped the piece of paper, drenched with her own tears and witnessed the end of her father’s smile.

“No… No… No, No, NO! NO! NO!!!”

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