Do Not Resuscitate

When I was a boy, you and I went fishing, Dad.
Over the phone I said Let’s go! I’m itching, Dad.    

You picked me up at grandma’s house. Mom was sleeping
upstairs. She couldn’t stand to see your bound wings, Dad.

I slid my hook through the knotted body of a worm,
felt the soft earth burst from its gut living, Dad.

The first fish I caught dangled at the end of my pole.
It flopped in the air, twisting, Dad.

I watched as you plucked it, firm in your tunnel hands,
held its scaled face to yours. You were listening, Dad,

as it told a story about life underwater,
but you dropped it in a bucket unforgiving, Dad.

And that’s all I remember, now: not the car ride home,
not the summer heat. I remember the wriggling, the writhing, Dad.

I remember your body, tangled in tubes and wires,
your eyes caked shut from hours of sleeping, Dad.

When the nurse woke you, I remember your lips
chapped, dancing for words—sloppily—dancing, Dad.

I remember the fish swirling in its dingy white prison. I wondered
if it knew what it was like to be almost-not there, diminishing, Dad,

and for two years, I’ve carried your ghost in a bucket filled with
bluegill and boiling water, because I can’t stop remembering, Dad,

the empty three-hour drive only to tell my family I’d be the one holding you—
me, your second son—unplugging you, killing you, Dad.


My name is Zachary Riddle, and I am currently a graduate student at Central Michigan University studying creative writing. Additionally, I am the Editor-in-Chief of the national literary journal Temenos. I have been published in The Central Review, Apex, The Blue Route, Icarus Down Review, Glassworks, and OxMag, among several others.