America, or: Jerusalem

‘Endings / beginnings’, a d’Verse prompt

More than anything else, I simply wanted her to be okay after Papa died
Though it seems rather unpoetic and prosaic to me looking back at it
Of course that is what I would have wanted for Mama; and for all of us
Losing one parent so tragically would have been impossible enough for me

Though it seems rather unpoetic and prosaic to me looking back at it
I wanted to swallow the depths of the Atlantic Ocean after Papa died
Losing one parent so tragically would have been impossible enough for me
Even if my mother hadn't been living so far, far, far away, somewhere

I wanted to swallow the depths of the Atlantic Ocean after Papa died
Anything to cry together with one's mother and baby brother, I felt
Even if my mother hadn't been living so far, far, far away, somewhere
Somewhere I had once called home, but which now smelled of foreign air

Anything to cry together with one's mother and baby brother, I felt
I felt utterly helpless and useless and disconnected from my Mama
Somewhere I had once called home, but which now smelled of foreign air
She was still stuck inside that house, living with the scents of him

I felt utterly helpless and useless and disconnected from my Mama
Writing myself out because I didn't believe prayer could reach America
She was still stuck inside that house, living with the scents of him
I was raising their grandchild in their Jerusalem, where his soul lived

Writing myself out because I didn't believe prayer could reach America
Actually, no human expression could hold a loved one across the world
I was raising their grandchild in their Jerusalem, where his soul lived
Mama and Papa had always, always, always wanted to return to Jerusalem

Actually, no human expression could hold a loved one across the world
I simply could think of nothing else to do with my useless, distant self
Mama and Papa had always, always, always wanted to return to Jerusalem
Mama was now alone, widowed in her America, with me in her Jerusalem

I simply could think of nothing else to do with my useless, distant self
So I wrote and wrote and wrote and when I tried to stop I was miserable
Mama was now alone, widowed in her America, with me in her Jerusalem
More than anything else, I simply wanted her to be okay after Papa died

The above poem is my take on d’Verse’s ‘endings / beginnings’ prompt.

We were offered five alternative ways to play with endings in poetry:

  1. how and where to end that line 
  2. endings as quotations like The Golden Shovel form – where one poem quotes another 
  3. endings and beginnings – verse forms that loop and repeat
  4. underlining your endings, and
  5. surprise endings.

I selected the 3rd option, after reading Australian poet Tess Pearson’s pantoum on housework called ‘Household Ripening’, which really moved me in both form and substance.

My thoughts have been with my mother as of late.

88 thoughts on “America, or: Jerusalem”

  1. Your words are POWER. I can feel them and your emotion.
    You said she could still smell him…..I myself know this feeling; all those years ago when mu own father passed.
    There is so much written here that provoked my emotion…
    I can tell you are a good man, son, and father!
    Your prayers are sure to reach the furthest bounds of unfathomable space and time!

    Utmost regards,
    FF

    1. FF,

      You are very sweet. I really appreciate you sharing a bit of your own memories.

      I’m a very flawed person, but that’s just the human condition 🙂

      -David

      1. I assure you we are all flawed.
        I also assure you that with each of your flaws, two virtues are found!! I hope you are blessed in all of your endeavors!!

        ~FF

      1. I could tell. My mom left this realm 5 years ago. I miss her every day. The last few years I flew from CA to AZ every month to see her and help her. I had to overcome a dreaded fear of flying, but you do what you can while you can.

  2. Wow! David you really did a great job on this prompt! I love your poem and the deep concern for your mother far away in America … out of reach … out of touch… a very sad situation for you.
    Well done!

    1. Yeah… it’s crazy how different our world is – remember once upon a time when families used to all stay together through multiple generations?

      Thanks, Dwight!

      -David

  3. Whenever someone talks of parents, I get emotional, particularly when you express so wonderfully. My father expired during my early childhood days, but my mom very recently. So I was more attached to her. Thanks David, for such a lovely poem.

        1. Oh wow. that is very recent, Kaushal! When somebody dies, it is Jewish tradition to say to the mourners: “Bless is the True Judge.”

          “Baruch Dayan Ha-Emet.”

  4. You express the geographical distance between parent and child so deeply. It must be the most terrible time not to be close to her children without regular physical contact to you, your wife and the little one, in her times and your time of tragedy and grief.
    It’s just incredibly soothing to have your own children to physically hold you in the mansion of your emotions.

    1. Yeah it’s hard. Of of the ironies of my Mama’s situation is that she moved away from her parents in Israel to live in the USA, and now her older son moved away from her to raise his family in Israel, and she’s still in the USA (where her younger son lives).

      -David

      1. At least, thank his holiness, she has someone called family, close by. This is a special blessings in her circumstances. She strikes me from the passage you have written to be a woman that knows how to carry the yolk and pass it on at the same time. She sounded so fresh, healthy and youthful when she visited your page the other day.
        We tend to treat our parents like “our children” and forget that they are old adults with a life, joy and sorrow of their own, elements we are still to meet in this form someday.
        I wish her all things wonderful, a life full of grace in these deep twilight years.

        1. Yes…

          But it’s not yet clear where my younger brother will end up, and the USA is a huge country – so they may yet end up living far away from one another for some time… not yet clear.

          Actually, my mother is young – not yet 65! I don’t think of her a my child at all. I did think of her mother (my babushka) as a bit childlike, but that was more because of how she behaved.

          Thank you for your kind wishes!


          David

  5. Grief ans rage are adjoining rooms in the hotel of our emotions. To find and outlet and wade through those emotions helps, not all the time, but it helps. In this respect i feel Roth’s prompt did you well, it helped.

  6. Again, another touching post. I adore the respect you have for your parents. For if we do not care or worry for those who created us, then what is the point in anything else. Parents are God. I am the person I am today only because of my parents. Your poem and the previous post perfectly reflect the pure love and respect you have for your parents. ❤️❤️

      1. Thanks, David. My parents live about 3 hours away but due to Covid, we haven’t seen them in over a year now…I hope we can visit them next year. ❤️

        1. WOW‼️That is a long time not to see somebody due to COVID-19.

          We haven’t seen my Mama in about a year either… but it’s a bit more than 3 hours away to get to the USA!

          -David

  7. So evocative and well written! ❤ This was my favorite line, “I wanted to swallow the depths of the Atlantic Ocean after Papa died,” I enjoyed the repetitive verses throughout as it did evoke the mournful, anxious thoughts one would feel, as these emotions repeat and loop in our minds. Blessings to you and your family during this holiday season, cheers to more poems in the new year 🍷

  8. So good ben – a wonderful pantoum – meditative, recurring, looping round as grieving thoughts often do – unresolved, unresolvable. I so liked how the first / last lines become a container for all the angst and frustration of separation that you write about. Thank you for sharing this heartfelt piece.

  9. Your poem resonates with me, David, as my mother was diagnosed with dementia just before my father died, and then ended up in a home where she contracted pneumonia at Christmas and was dead by 9th January 2017 – it’s a difficult time of year. The opening line reflects my own situation, ‘More than anything else, I simply wanted her to be okay’ and the repeated ‘after Papa died’ emphasises it. I too was ‘living so far, far, far away’, and ‘felt utterly helpless and useless and disconnected’. I have tears as I write this.

    1. 😢

      I’m so sorry to hear your story, Kim. That sounds really, really devastating. May I ask how old you were when your parents died?

      Thank you for sharing with me. I really appreciate it.

      Sincerely,
      David

  10. I did like this poem, more like a lament, with it’s repetitive thoughts and regrets. Distance is a killer. It kills slowly. I was far away when both my parents died and the sense of uselessness is overwhelming.

  11. The repetition highlights the strong connections that exist within your family despite the distances in miles. There is a helplessness we always feel in the face of death. Perhaps in the face of great love as well. (K)

    1. Thank you so kindly, Kerfe.

      TBH, I couldn’t tell you exactly why the repetition worked for me, but it really felt so right. As soon as I discovered this form through the d’Verse prompt, I just knew: this is how I want to write these thoughts!

      And, yes, I felt helpless in the face of death, and I felt even more helpless in its wake. It was a horrible feeling.

      -David

    1. I’ll have to try a villanelle – I’ve never written one! I have to say that it’s so much fun to play with these various poetic forms 🙂

      Thanks, Yvonne!

      -David

  12. This is so moving, David. The description of how you ‘ wanted to swallow the depths of the Atlantic Ocean’ and be with your mother. Writing is great therapy and it comes across here in this heart-rending pantoum. It’s a form I love and you’ve done it so well. I hope your mother is ok.

    1. Thanks, Ingrid! My mother is actually doing pretty well 🙂 and we’re all very happy for her.

      I think at this point, I’m hooked on writing – it has really, really been helping me deal with all of my “issues”.

      Yours,
      David

  13. straight from your heart … “drinking that ocean” is a skilful way to express your frustration at the distance! The repetitive loop is a heartfelt lament, you express your love and concern graphically … well done and sorry for your loss

  14. Living a distance from an aging parent is a heartbreak beyond description. It comes wrapped in guilt and frustration at problems with no solutions, at the inability to be in two places at once, at love never-ending impossible to express as one might like. Your poem touched me so. Blessings.

    1. Thanks, Beverly! You know, there’s an irony for my mother in this because she also left her mother, father, and sisters behind in Israel when she moved to the States… and now she’s still there, and I’m living in Israel 😦

      I really appreciate your kind comment.

      -David

  15. Beautiful with the repetition, very moving… I relate to a lot of this, David. “So I wrote and wrote and wrote and when I tried to stop I was miserable”… yes.

    Not sure if you’re aware, maybe you have used Verse Block (which I have found to be glitchy)? But the poem portion of the post shows with that coding-style font and strange line breaks (often in the middle of words), in my browser (desktop) at least. Makes it difficult to read with the proper flow.
    But I can still feel and relate to the depths of it… 💛

    I like the way you experiment with form. Conforming to a specific form can be really useful for exploring difficult topics. I learned that in a creative non-fiction course once. Your piece is a great example of that and thus a good reminder for me. Thanks for sharing. 🌻

    1. Yeah verse block isn’t perfect, but you should be able to scroll horizontally in it, Lia… at least, on my computer and phone, that’s how it works. I agree tho…. long lines don’t look right with it.

      I feel like the greatest advantage for me of reading other poets on WP and trying out these prompts is the exposure to new forms – it’s SO much fun for me 🙂

      Thank you, Lia ❤

      -David

  16. Excellent response to Peter’s wonderful prompt Ben, very touching. I loved my father deeply. I was the one who had to pull the plug on his respirator, no one else could do it, but he was brain dead — no longer there, just a husk. He was my hero. Still haunts me. Hope you have a great holiday season, and look forward to reading more of your work in 2021.

  17. David, a heartfelt poem. I rarely see my children now, but we do keep in touch by email and phone. Where is your mother living now that her house has been sold? When covid is over, I hope you can arrange an extended family visit. It is hard for children and grandparents not to be able to interact. Children grow up so fast!

    All the best for 2021!

  18. Very powerful poem, and I am so sorry for your loss! Best wishes to your mother, having to continue on without your father by her side.
    It is so strange to lose one’s parent. Since my Dad got really sick with cancer, I often wake up feeling there is an axe in my chest. It is hard to feel orphaned in a way, but I keep talking to my Dad, sure he is in some ways closer than ever, even while I can’t believe he is physically gone.
    Hugs and prayers across time and space for all your family!

    1. Björn,

      Yes, thank you. You know, your comment is actually poetic itself! One could read it as suggesting that “longing” and “mourning” are the “two places that are both like home for” for us…

      Yours,
      David

  19. Wow David!! For a writing exercise with rules and certain layout and format..this was just such an emotional read. I love it and if the repetition was only because that was the form..who care’s? It felt raw and human and really moved me. Even when you are just completing an exercise in writing, your sensitivity and soul shine through!

  20. Sometimes words are all we have to offer.
    And even then when they are not enough, expressing so,
    will appease a forlorn heart.

    Thank you for your poem.

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