Failing, Failing by Peter J. Dellolio

This man with the salt and pepper mustache, the soft

	grey folds of hair, my father...failing,

	failing to respond to the comforting phrases.

The same words uttered routinely: Relax, relax they say,

	but the bed sheets are knotted, his arms tied

	keeping tubes in place.

And he struggles, he remains in bed, tied to the bed

	impassive support bars surrounding the bed he

	can no longer leave.

The bed is final.  There is only pale light spilling into

	the room from the bustling hospital corridor.

	Failing.  He fails to care think or cry.

He has forgotten all the days, all the days that have

	passed in a life, they are lost dreams housed by

	our flesh.

And we will speak so lovingly of the time that was spent,

	there will be the undeniable need to remember,

	remember, remember.

We remember after death because the body is a document

	recording moments held together like fish entering

	enormous nets.

Enormous nets stretched from one end of the sea to the

	other, and they are caught, these moments, each an

	entry in the diary of the senses.

For it is true that he sat in the shade in his beach chair in

	front of the house, and quiet summer breezes blew

	gently against the silky loose strands of his hair.

And later the same strands made so still by the spray, the

	preparation for the coffin which was solid shiny black

	and heavy.

Its conspicuousness is a strangely unreal thing, a presence

	that is not questioned, how peculiar that it is so

	readily, so naturally accepted.

And it is also true that one morning he sparkled with anticipation

	believing mistakenly that this was the day of his release from

	the hospital.

His eyes so alert gingerly he slapped my cheek, purposely using

	the hand previously paralyzed to show me, jokingly, See: he

	was still the old man don’t get wise with the old man.

Just to show me, with pride from his perception of health only

	illusorily regained, his reassurance also, the instinct of

	a parent to allay the fears of the child.

Yet secretly I was already aware of his dying, but the reassurance,

	for my sake, See, I can move the arm don’t worry I can move


Above all else death is the sleep of the limbs, erasing the motion

	of the body, turning every perceived gesture into a figment

	of the mind.

Because his reaching for my cheek is now only a thought, a fleeting

	dreamy thought many steps removed from its origin, like a

	recollection of snow in the midst of summer.

Like a recollection of snow encrusted branches suddenly and

	incongruously filling one’s mind on an August afternoon,

	what you remember is real yet so entirely absent.

And you know it will return, a kind of bizarre certainly prevails,

	overcoming the abstraction of the image, the distant

	removed idea.

Perhaps it is this cleverly implanted logic, the logic of the 

	seasons, this juxtaposition, this alternation of matter

	which gives us our bittersweet knowledge.

That repetition in its grand inevitability is at once trite and

	profound, that there is no exception, that it is so banal,

	that everything will continue, change, replace itself.

And on and on again...Yes, we are not unlike the seasons, but

	is it too simple?  Perhaps...yet there are very few irreducible

	truths, those that cannot be diminished or increased.

Those truths that contain magnificent

	simplicity, and in our fragility we trust that the soul must be

	this kind of truth.

We believe that the soul may come forth only when all matter is

	finally perceived as a lie, a noble lie, the way one makes

	up a story to calm the fears of a child.

Just as we are all frightened, frightened by the loss of life, but

	it is the loss of that which does not really exist, the body

	infinitely varied in its forms, changing.

Changing just as the ceaseless motion of the waves alters the

	shapes and contours of the sea...But look, look more

	closely: none of these liquid phantoms remains.

Always there is another appearance and another movement, and

	always there is a mournful hunger to unwrap all the mysteries,

	to see every beginning and every ending.

And always there will be the melancholy necessity of death coming,

	coming as a thought without a mind, as a lifelong friend who

	has no name, as an ancient memory that cannot be recalled.

As a whisper, as a whisper, uttered reverently, death will speak,

	it will tell the muscles to refrain from the old dance: Come
	with me, says death, Come listen to new music elsewhere.
Photo by Spencer Selover on

About the Poet:

Peter J. Dellolio

Born 1956 New York City.  Went to Nazareth High School and New York University.  Graduated 1978: BA Cinema Studies; BFA Film Production.  Wrote and directed various short films, including James Joyce’s short story Counterparts which he adapted into a screenplay.  Counterparts was screened at national and international film festivals.  A freelance writer, Peter has published many 250-1000 word articles on the arts, film, dance, sculpture, architecture, and culture, as well as fiction, poetry, one-act plays, and critical essays on art, film, and photography.   Poetry collections “A Box Of Crazy Toys” published 2018 by Xenos Books/Chelsea Editions and “Bloodstream Is An Illusion Of Rubies Counting Fireplaces” published February 2023 by Cyberwit/Rochak Publishing.  He is working on a critical study of Alfred Hitchcock, Hitchcock’s Cinematic World: Shocks of Perception and the Collapse of the Rational.  Chapter excerpts have appeared in The Midwest Quarterly, Literature/Film Quarterly, Kinema, Flickhead, and North Dakota Quarterly since 2006.  

His poetry and fiction have appeared in various literary magazines, including AntennaAero-Sun TimesBogus ReviewPen-Dec PressBoth Sides NowCross Cultural Communications/Bridging The Waters Volume II, and The Mascara Literary Review.  Dramatika Press published a volume of his one-act plays in 1983.  One of these, The Seeker, appeared in an issue of Collages & Bricolages.  Peter was a contributing editor for NYArts Magazine, writing art and film reviews.  He authored monographs on several new artists as well.  He was co-publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Artscape2000, a prestigious, award-winning art review e-zine.  He has also taught poetry and art for LEAP.  He is an artist himself: paintings and 3D works offer abstract images of famous people in all walks of life who have died tragically at a young age.He lives in Brooklyn.


2 thoughts on “Failing, Failing by Peter J. Dellolio

Add yours

  1. Many thanks. It’s very touching to know that the poem speaks to others who may have had the same grief over losing a loved one. There’s some healing in that as well.

    Liked by 2 people

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