A Poem: Sleep Apnea

Sleep Apnea
by Ted Kooser

Night after night, when I was a child,
I woke to the guttering candle
of my father’s breath. It made a sound
like the starlings that sometimes
got caught in our chimney, a chirping
that would gradually, steadily build
to a desperate, flat slapping of wings,
then suddenly drop into silence,
into the thick soot at the bottom
of midnight. No silence was ever
so deep. And then, after maybe
a minute or two, I would hear
a twitter as he came to life again,
and could at last take a breath for myself,
a sip like a toast, lifting a chilled glass
of air, wishing us courage, those of us
lying awake through those hours,
my mother, my sister and I, who each night
listened to death kiss the fluttering lips
of my father, who slept through it all.

Credit: Ted Kooser, “Sleep Apnea” from Splitting an Order. Copyright :copyright: 2014 by Ted Kooser.
Harrison. Reprinted with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc. on behalf of Copper Canyon Press,
www.coppercanyonpress.org.

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