Leo Dangel was born August 7, 1941, raised in South Dakota and attended colleges in South Dakota, Minnesota, and Kansas. He earned both a BA in social science and an MA in English from Emporia State University.
CPR OR NO CPR
We bring Aunt Martha to the nursing home.
They weigh her, barely a hundred pounds,
and we help her lie down for a nap.
She closes her eyes, and the lines
of her frail body almost vanish
in her loose-fitting black dress.
I remember how this woman,
after her husband died,
ran the farm herself,
operating tractors and combines,
digging post holes and stretching barbed wire,
dehorning cattle and castrating pigs.
She cooked, too, and baked bread,
and fixed her daughters’ hair.
Everyone knew Martha could do anything.
Now the nurse adjusts the Venetian blinds
and, speaking softly, tells us
we’ll have to talk it over with Martha
when she wakes up and decide which box
to check on her chart–“No CPR” means
that if she ever stops breathing,
they won’t try to bring her back.
Standing near her bed, we talk in whispers,
wondering how we’ll raise this subject,
when, without opening her eyes, she speaks
in the voice she once used to direct
a crew of men shelling corn or filling silo,
“I’ll kill anyone who brings me back.”