Sitting at the edge of his hospice bed, eyes closed, Dad focuses on his breath.

Late-stage lung cancer has made each one hard earned. Each one, only the slightest rise and fall of the clean T-shirt his nurse put on him this morning.

I stand behind him, my thumbs massaging—so lightly now—the tendons of his neck while his head bobs forward like the heads of hatchlings do.

His scapulae, when my hands brush them, are more raptor than human. And I think the long bones of humerus, radius, and ulna have hollowed, light as his arms are when I shift their position.

His face, too, has gone avian—the ridge of brow, nose, cheek.

And his feet. Unshod, curving, tentative on the living room floor.

He has, for a week, been saying he’s got someplace to be.

“Terminal metaphors,” the literature calls it, when the dying speak of travel.

Often, when they do this, they offer no specific destination. So, Dad’s concern has been only the mode of transport.

On Monday, he was going to take a train.

Tuesday, a car.

Wednesday and Thursday, a Greyhound Bus.

Friday, he asked me to get him a ticket … for a … for a … for a …

Saturday, he was going to walk.

And now it’s Sunday.

Sunday and the air he can’t bring into his lungs eddies around him.

And he, sitting there—legs twigged, the skin that once traced his biceps gone to wing—refuses to cover himself with a sheet.

My father, perched at the edge of his bed, waiting on updraft.

Terri Kent is a California-born writer, visual artist, and vocalist. Her prose and Pushcart-nominated poetry have appeared in River TeethOneArtThe San Pedro River ReviewLiterary MamaCalifornia Fire and Water: A Climate Crisis Anthology, and other publications. She recently contributed vocals on the albums American Undertow and Little Birds Singing (The Retro Legion) and is working on a collection of lyric essays.

Artwork by Barbara Gillette Price