nights you’d sleep at the foot of your father’s bed on a mattress you’d pray withstand the needle else it sigh paternally. your fingernails were softened with disease and you’d dream they were pillows. mornings your mother would watch as you’d go to the rim and she’d suck her thumb. mornings also your two brothers would call to your arms to go here or there after which you’d soak each arm as one in dishwater and try to pronounce crayon crayon crown of thorns.
visible the noonday moon you’d laze by pond and listen for the creak of your teeth pushing forward as if they’d been charged to oust from your speech the word deindividuation and you’d let it happen being so enamored of the tongue you’d press to the bottom of your mouth as if you could make of it a copy.
then orally corrupt you’d move to see a deer
but straight on a horse and so upright you’d jerk and send your sister into the acid of your stomach where drowned what loved you; her love of men and her later love of one man
who’d void sin and gender to widow you with forgiveness.
I bring with me the weakest part of a flower from a neighborhood we neither one called ours and I blow it now through a wire fence. some bring wilt, some pity. might we trade them for the layup so executed we were shown by the undecorated sport of your austerity
the aftermath of our own penitence.
Regret is not
The fleeting deferral of
some brief romance
the inability to react
to the irreversible moment
of something created
(My boy Jamie being led
into that bitter cold by
a hand that should have
but my own)
faded pulpit dark and
winter noon grey
are but the same as
to mark , instead , what
could have been done
for the world
(I thought they were better off
with their own kind
so I used to hurry past
them waiting for the trains
their children tidy and
And the Angelus bell
will continue to ring
long after we all rot.
And the ghosts we share
will take all but their
names with them, to
be dug up for some
purpose of record
to fissure a cause for disquiet
along the nuns' walk wall.
(Before that, she had been
such a carful girl
and these days I
wince at the sound
of giggles which
remind me of hers.)
The wreath, quick, I am dying!
Weave it quick now! Sing, and moan, sing!
Now the shadow is darkening my throat,
and January's light returns, a thousand and one times.
Between what needs me, and my needing you,
starry air, and a trembling tree.
A thickness of windflowers lifts
a whole year, with hidden groaning.
Take joy from the fresh landscape of my wound,
break out the reeds, and the delicate streams,
and taste the blood, split, on my thighs of sweetness.
But quick! So that joined together, and one,
time will find us ruined,
with bitten souls, and mouths bruised with love.
the meadow under
on the dark sky,
and after a long run,
swaying and spinning
with that wreath
on your head,
the one that
i love too much.
and you'll get tired,
and be out of breath,
you'll fall onto the ground
yellow grass and
the one that you love
and you'll stare
and stare into
until your eyes start
to close and you'll
falling into a peaceful
with flowers, stars
For SARA LEW, my mom:
I struggle to move my mother
from bed to wheelchair to bed.
She appears so slight but inhabits
that doubled weight of a sleeping child
in the steadfast slumber of her limbs.
Not long ago it was she who seesawed me
from the crib to sky to breast,
as if offering my essence to the Creator,
but whelmed by instincts
greater than gratitude,
she glommed me to her bosom.
Now I am become reparation,
the settling of a debt,
and in every sacrifice for her
a trail of myrrh ascends from me
bringing God a little bit closer.
ღ ღ ღ
Possessions of the deceased
fall as night snow in geological regression --
the strata of the dead blankets the living
fill Goodwill boxes with commodity
leave basements mildewed with sentiment.
“Look,” I say, “Mom wore this dress
at my Bat Mitzvah.” Lizards of sequins
dangle from the green satin. “I can’t
give that away. Nor this, nor that…"
“Keep the jewelry and burn the rest,”
my brother says. “Let’s potlatch
all this shit. Fuck Goodwill!”
“Yeah, fuck Goodwill,” I say, and,
like good Kwakiutl Jews,
we say Kaddish for our mom
and we burn it
to the fucking ground.
ღ ღ ღ
Sara: 'Nun, Gimmel, Hei & Shin
The hospice said, ‘Sara will last one more day.’
Thus far your flame has kindled for sixty-four
You are eightfold the miracle of Chanukah,
your light inextinguishable, your spirit irrepressible.
You are a menorah, standing arms outstretched,
at the windowsill for all who raise their eyes to see,
and be inspired by your light, your triumphant life
that has always stared boldly in the face of death.
When your wick finally flickers
and sputters in protest to an end,
you shall walk faithfully into Hashem’s light
to become the brightest star in heaven,
gleaming with pride that your flame
passed on to your children,
passed on to all who loved you,
candle to candle.
Happy Chanukah, Momeleh.
I will light the Yahrzeit for you.
ღ ღ ღ
Everything Will Be Alright
My fingertips press across the cold inscription
Greeted by your warm touch pressing back.
I know well this hand that rocked the cradle,
Dished out chicken soup by the ladle,
Momeleh, most shaineh maidel,
Everything will be alright.
Here I tremble beneath the beat of wings
Of Seraphim who hover nigh,
While you recite to God your latest poem
Bidding, ‘Love to all and to all Shalom!’
Momeleh, you’re at home,
Everything will be alright.
I want you to know that we all miss you,
Want to hug you, want to kiss you.
Look! We’re gathered here at your unveiling --
Honors, tributes, prayers prevailing,
Momeleh, I promise from here on in it will be clear sailing,
Everything will be alright,
Everything will be alright.
ღ ღ ღ
Mom Memorial Haikus
I feel my mom so
much alive in me that there's
not even room for me.
Six rows down from top,
then three columns from the end
is mom's Yahrzeit plaque.
No setting for mom this year.
'I miss her too.'
ღ ღ ღ
For MOSES LEW, my dad:
What's the point of shaving my dying father
whose stubble will soon sprout again
beneath the rubble that marks his plot?
What's the point of these IV drips
that black and blue his arms,
marbleized and venous in frailty?
I shuffle with him from bed to toilet,
from toilet to bed as the TV drones his elegy.
"Can I get you anything, Dad?"
"No thanks," he replies -- the same answer for 83 years.
His wedding photo sits on the side table,
his history unimpacted between then and now.
No drama. No 'fight, fight against the dying of the light' --
just a fearless Shabbat stroll in the Valley of Death,
from dust to dust, from newborn scream to final breath.
Jamaican nurses joke in the sterile corridor.
"Stop it! Stop it!" I am crying.
"Can't you see that someone's dying!"
"Don't go so soon, Dad. Not so soon."
I close his eyes, I kiss his brow,
and lick the applesauce off his spoon.
What's the point...
what's the point...
ღ ღ ღ
The first time I kissed a man's lips
it was my fathers
and the last time
it was my son's.
My father is long gone;
my son is now in college.
The pressing of a father's lips
to his son's has a very narrow window.
At about age ten
it is no longer appropriate.
Don't ask me why.
Unmanly I guess.
we shake hands;
we exchange smiles with our eyes.
My father first kissed my son's lips
about 22 years since he last kissed mine.
How I miss those ingenuous lips to lips --
that frail male tail of a comet
that emblazons the sky
and does not return
for a generation.
ღ ღ ღ
Psalm for My Father
O Heavenly Father,
I see You most clearly in the eyes of my father,
in his worn hands, the bend of his back,
his withered smile when he jokes.
All joy and laughter is Yours, Hashem.
I hear Your voice in his lessons,
Your Torah in his admonitions.
I feel Your love in his tenderness.
In Your Eternity I see his and am comforted by this.
For I know, that in death we only cast off the mask
hiding our souls which return joyfully to the foot of Your Throne.
I know my father accepts this truth,
so help me accept it as well.
He knows it is his time, so let me know it is the right time –
that he has reached the fullness of his days,
that he has rectified for his sins,
that he has fulfilled his promise to You and to others.
Hashem, replace my doubt with certainty,
my fear with trust, my despair with faith.
Attend with Your infinite mercy my frail heart,
be its unfaltering shield in this,
my greatest battle with mortality.
Through Your eyes I see no wilderness of death
but an apple orchard of trees laden with Your Divine Light,
with fragrance that can be seen, heard, touched and tasted.
Your Light shone before creation and will shine again
in the time of the Messiah
who will bring your most gracious gift full circle.
Bathe me in Your Light.
Purify me of my iniquities that I, too, one day,
may enter Your orchard and return to You, Heavenly Father,
in acceptance, in repentance and in love.
Sara Lew, 1922-2010
Moses Lew, 1907-1990
Please read my mom's poignant memoir about surviving Auschwitz:
Sara: From Bialystok to Brooklyn, A Survivor's Memoir (Chapter 1-3/My Family-Bialystok)
Sara: From Bialystok to Brooklyn, A Survivor's Memoir (Chapter 4-6/Nazi Occupation-Majdanek)
Sara: From Bialystok to Brooklyn, A Survivor's Memoir (Chapter 7-8/Blizyn-Auschwitz)
Sara: From Bialystok to Brooklyn, A Survivor's Memoir (Chapter 9-10/Liberation)
Sara: From Bialystok to Brooklyn, A Survivor's Memoir (Chapter 11-End/Brooklyn)
There's no denying
Eminem & Rihanna's Love the Way You Lie is better,
but PSY's Gangnam Style has 3 times more hits?
It's pure whimsy and makes you smile ~
ᏰέƦẙḽԃṏሁ's poetry does pretty much
the same thing.
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