Alive, or: Dead

‘We are teachers to our grandchildren’, a d’Verse prompt

He was supposed to teach
  her math and now 
he fucking won't because he's ~

We? What 'We'? Is this the 
collective
  'We who take being alive 
for granted' or 
  'We who are not to live again 
salute you - No - just 
kidding! We're ~

He was supposed to teach her math!
  He was supposed to 
be here. Today.
  He was supposed to 
wish me a happy birthday.
  He was not 
supposed 
to be ~

I grew a longer beard after Papa 
died
  Not shaving 
is a Jewish 
mourning tradition, you know 
(did you?)
And it makes me look
  older. 
  (Good - because I am!) 
I have some white 
hairs in it; some day 
  they will all be white 
and I hope 
to be 
  buried that way 
  
    when I am ~

Don't tell me that Papa
is teaching her
  through me. He's not.
He's not teaching 
her math;
  he's not teaching 
her 
  anything - because he's fucking ~

It's my birthday and -
  I'll ~
  I'll ~

The above poem is my take on d’Verse’s ‘travels in the wild’ prompt.

d’Verse gave us a selection of potential titles for our poems, and let us do the rest.

105 thoughts on “Alive, or: Dead”

  1. He will be teaching her if she wants to, if you will allow him too
    And also wish you the warmest happy birthday
    He lives on through your heart…..and he gathers round.

  2. Ummmm, wow ❤️…. Love the passion and essence here. Nicely expressed. PS. Beards grey or not are the BEST 😊

    1. I don’t curse much, but it is a word that I use, and poems like this wouldn’t be true to me if I didn’t use it where it feels right.

      My Mom and Dad raised me speaking Russian at home, and my Mom didn’t teach me any curse words, but my Dad deliberately did – even though my Mom didn’t like it. He said that it’s important to have a grasp of the full range of a language in order to best use it.

        1. Good question! Not sure. I learned all the swear words in English anyway. You also don’t derive the same satisfaction from calling someone a salope or telling them “Ferme ta grosse gueule!” or “Va te faire foutre!” when they aren’t going to understand you anyway.

  3. First, happy birthday to you. Second, what a beautiful poem with great depth of feeling. It really hits on many points. Lastly, the things we can not control, holes, empty spots once filled by those we loved. So well written. 👌💟🕯

    1. Thank you so much for your kind comment 🙂

      It’s painful, but I’m trying to deal with it as best I can… I know I’m not unique in having lost a parent or a loved one – this is the human story.

      1. Aww…. Wish you (quietly) a very happy one then….🤗💐🌹 Stay blessed, happy and be the good soul that you are, always 😇😇🎂🎉

  4. I struggle with beard growing. I also struggle with dad’s. How do dad’s love and judge sons? So your poem may be litteral. And I tip my hat to you.

    I hope I am not presumptuous in say this next bit. When I read literally someone’s dad has died I compare it imperfectly to my metaphoric death to dad. It (that father or son death) is archetypical of that father and son disassociation or incoherency. I wonder how one of our — dad’s or mine- deaths will feel in literal reality. Sense I see my experience reflected in father and son death this type of poem is archetypical. Very reflective though I do not mean to bore you by looking too deeply into it. I simply appreciate it and hope you remember your dad kindly.

    1. I suppose it is archetypical, as you say, Jerrod. Thank you for your contemplative response!

      There was an amazing quote that I found in the book ‘KADDISH’ by Leon Wieseltier (p. 113):

      Your father dies and you are free. And what do you do with your freedom? You think, and write, and pray, about your father. Congratulations!

      Even as a son, you must speak in your own name.

      Your analysis of your tutelage loosens it. Understand authority and you have crippled it. This is how authority changes hands…

  5. The consistent change in direction of thought in this poem was quite powerful. I felt loneliness may be a touch of anger, but I also felt love. Well conceived well written piece.

    1. Definitely anger, although I don’t go around screaming at the world all the time… And definitely love, which is something that I do try to express as much as possible.

      Thanks, Rob – I really appreciate your remark ❤

  6. Oh, you are walking in the wilderness of grief, and your poem took me right into the heart of it. Powerful writing, and very real – the best kind. Authentic, from the heart, great impact. Just wonderful.

    1. Yeah. True.

      This was about as straight forward and not-metaphorical as I get.

      My Dad is dead, and I am angry about it. Not angry at anyone in particular – just angry and hurt.

    1. Björn,

      I cannot do it. My father and I were very different people with very different gifts to offer. I can only give my daughter myself – I will never be able to give her him.

      Thank you so much for reading.

  7. Very powerful! Reminds me of the pain I went through when I’ve lost loved ones. The scattered thoughts and frustration came through so vividly. Well done!

  8. Wow! your tradition of growing hair when mourning is exactly the opposite of mine. My tradition cuts off all hair for at least two weeks!
    Thank you for sharing and Happy Birthday, David.

      1. It’s a tradition shared by the nomadic tribes of the karamojong of northeastern Uganda, the Turkana of northwestern Kenya, and the Maasai of Kenya and Tanzania.

  9. Happy Birthday, David (see, I remembered your name.) Just like the words aren’t there but are there, Papa isn’t there but is there. And the maths will be done….

  10. I wish you a happy birthday, David ❤ 🙂Sending warm regards from India your way so that your mood lightens up. This was a beautifully expressed but very sad poem.

  11. Oh my…. the ending makes it especially poignant… it’s beautifully written, I feel it —
    I felt it.

    Btw, funny you mention the beard makes you look older… when I first saw the pic, I thought, omg he’s so young! (even with the beard :))

    David it’s a really good poem…
    Sending hug. (((💔)))💗

  12. Your writing speaks volumes, Ben. Such a beautiful, heartbreaking piece. Grief is a monster. But you are staying afloat and I am proud of you for that. Also, a very happy birthday to you!!

  13. Happy birthday, David! I hope you have a wonderful celebration. ❤

    Very powerfully-written poem. I have experienced grief, but never felt angry at the person who died, although my son reacted with anger to his father's death when he was twelve. He still has moments when he feels that way at thirty.

    I like your beard. 🙂 More important, I like you for your humor and intelligence. 🙂

    1. Thanks Cheryl. I won’t lie – I like my beard too 🧔🏻

      I’m not exactly angry at Papa... Although I do wish he had taken care of health better than he did. His health was worse than it could have been otherwise if he had been more diligent.

      But – I’m mostly just angry that he’s gone in general. It’s ridiculous to me – in the sense that it’s inconceivable. It just came out of the blue and then BAM – I no longer have a father. And I’m REALLY upset that my daughter and potential future children will never know him, nor learn from him.

      Both of his parents lived into their 90’s! (he was only 70)

      1. Wow! that is sad! I can certainly understand your frustration!

        My husband died at 45 when my son was twelve and my daughter was 10. We had planned a trip to Russia (where my two youngest children were born) and Israel in lieu of my son’s bar mitzvah. It’s the younger generation who suffer most.

        Take care, David. ❤

        1. I completely agree, Cheryl.

          Tell me, if you don’t mind, why were your children born in Russia? Both of my parents left the USSR in ’74, and my wife is originally from Russia – and her family still lives there.

      2. My quadriplegic husband’s grandmother was from Belarus and his grandfather was from Poland. His other grandparents were also Jewish, but I don’t know their ethnic origin, but either Russian or Polish. My husband felt a connection to Russia. He had worked in the First Bush Bush Administration with a lady who started an adoption agency in Russia specializing in disabled kids who were not adoptable in Russia at the time.

        We attended a meeting at the Cosmos Club in DC where this lady, disabled and single, told about adopting a paraplegic five-year-old girl from Russia. (She later adopted a second disabled girl. Both girls grew up to participate in wheelchair events at the Olympic Games in Greece, and one daughter won a medal.) She introduced her new adoption agency.

        After we returned home, we discussed the possibility of adopting a child and decided against it because my husband was disabled and I was over forty. A few minutes later, he asked how I felt about the decision we had made. I told him that I felt a little sad. So we decided to go ahead. We ended up adopting a brother and sister, aged 6 and 4, from Ekaterinburg, Russia. He was a very devoted father for the last seven years of his life.

        There post on on my blog. I will send the info.

        Thank you for your interest. I hope it’s not too much information.

  14. If only emotions were numbers we could place neatly in order. The best we can do is wait for them to settle into their proper place. And maybe they’re there already, simply reminding us of what’s important.

      1. This is my fourth time back to WordPress. I found my way back here to your blog, it gets better every time 😊

  15. I don’t think we ever really accept losing a parent. For me It’s like my father’s gone and I’m angry and upset because he never said anything about not coming back. There’s much to tell him. But he does visit our everyday in some anecdote or another. My children remember or maybe just sense his strange combination of goofiness and kindness and their memories are kept lively with the way we speak of him…of stories that made our lives

    You speak of your father and through that you speak of how much he means to you. God bless

  16. Happy Birthday Ben! My dad was very good at math too. I didn’t know how special hearing him say happy birthday to me through a saved voicemail would be until I could no longer hear him say those words to me. Even without a voice recording, they are always with us. 💕

    1. … I am trying to wrap my heart around the idea that “they are always with us” … but, honestly, I am struggling with believing that.

      (sorry to be a downer, Michele 😦 )

      1. That common phrase may mean different things to different people. For me, it means my departed loved ones are still in my thoughts and memories. Their words come to my mind in unexpected ways or memories of being with them appear. Sometimes the associations and memories are sweet and sometimes they are sad, or a mixture of both. I don’t think your struggle to understand my comment is a downer, just an honest statement/question, it seems.

        1. You are welcome, David. Thank you for writing about your painful loss. Expressing anger about your father’s absence is honest and relatable for many people. The line about having white hairs is poignant. I hope you had happy moments on your birthday, and continue having those. Be well.

  17. Meine Kinder
    meine Kindeskinder
    erziehen mich
    haben mich erzogen

    ich gehe seit meiner
    Kindheit
    in meiner Seele
    zum Unterricht
    in die Schule

    vor allem mein

    das Versagen
    meiner Mütter
    nicht zu denken
    an die Väter

    im Bewusstsein
    nicht weil ich
    ein besserer Mensch bin
    täglicher Bemühung
    abzutragen

    Herzliche Grüße
    Hans Gamma

    ***

    יום טוב

    הילדים שלי
    ילדי ילדי
    לחנך אותי
    גידל אותי

    אני הולך מאז שלי
    יַלדוּת
    בנשמה שלי
    לכיתה
    בבית הספר

    במיוחד שלי

    הכישלון
    של אימא שלי
    לא לחשוב
    לאבות

    בתודעה
    לא בגלל שאני אדם טוב יותר מאבותיי
    מאמץ יומיומי
    להסרה

    כל טוב
    האנס גמא

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