When I am dying I will breathe in triplets
Until I don’t.
I will die on the third beat

and then there will be a long rest
while a sweet-faced nurse turns off my machine
and consoles my visitors.

If my dog is there, I hope they let him curl
into the crook of my knees as I lie on my side.
Just like at home.

I hope it will comfort him,
and I hope he pulls off
a deep, mournful wail when I stop.

I suppose I may be home,
but I see myself in a hospital room
with butter yellow walls

and dust motes dancing in the air.
Rhythmic hiss of respirator,
keeping good time for a machine designed by a white guy.

I would like to avoid agonal breathing
and also shitting myself or extended choking.
These are not crowd-pleasers.

I would like to be given Soldiers’ Joy,
Sweet morphine,
so my hands will be on top of the sheets, calm.

If I can, I will sit bolt upright in the bed,
and stare at the ceiling tiles,
with an ecstatic expression on my face,

eyes wide and serene, surprised mouth, O.
Might as well give people something to talk about.
And a little hope.

I would like my dog at my funeral, please.
Silver-framed if he is not permitted in person.
He drinks in triplets, messy like last breaths,

until he doesn’t.
He will whine and pace, I think,
and he will mourn me more than some others.


A poet asked me if I had seen people die, which got me thinking about how people die in hospitals. This poem is what came out of that exchange. I began thinking how I might arrange my own death if I were conscious and hospitalized, picking and choosing from deaths I had seen. I once had a lovely Newfoundland with impeccable manners (she would “lie down” but not “lay down,” to one dog sitter’s surprise), whose only piece of gaucherie was that she drank water in triplets, slurping loudly and leaving half of it on the floor. Death in hospitals reminds me of that—as refined as you’re motivated to be, the structure of the place elicits crude and rude behavior.

Anne Vinsel spent 16 years at the University of Utah Hospital doing medical writing and surgical photography. She holds a MS in psychology and an MFA in painting. She loves reading and writing fiction and playing with her friends, including her adorable and wiggly pit bull/great Dane/basset rescue dog, Dr. Miranda Bailey.

Rubor Participation:
2019: Poems, "Waiting: 10 Poems Begun at a Bus Stop," web edition
2019 Prose, "In Time of Famine, the Devil Dines on Fries," web edition
2019 Poem, "Lemon Drops," web edition
2019 Poem, "Triplets"
2015 Essay, "Pas Seul"
2014 Photograph, "Irrigation"
2014 Photograph, "Ghost Surgeon"
2014 Essay, "Listen, meine Kinder"
2014 Oil Painting, "Chemo Pond"