Alive, or: Dead

‘We are teachers to our grandchildren’, a d’Verse free verse poem

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.

‘AB’, or: Negative

‘The Dude abides’, a d’Verse Quadrille

Above an abyssal abime 
abide abeles; and abelmosks 
abound, abloom, ablush, abutted by 
abandoned aboriginal abbey, absent 
absconded abbots. 

An ablegate abroad abreacts absorbedly; 
aborted aborning abracadabras are 
abomas abiding about 
his abdomen. 

Aboulia abidingly absterged; 
abhorrent abuses absolved, ablins, 
in ablutions of absinthe. 

The above poem is my take on d’Verse’s Quadrille challenge #117.

The quadrille is simply a poem of 44 words (excluding the title), and it can take any form. This week’s challenge was to use the word “abide” in a quadrille.

Short story: Comfort (III)

Wait for it… wait for…

The tall blonde’s thin cotton skirt swished as she walked by the loquat trees not far from the edge of the sidewalk. Behind her the sun continued its descent towards the distant Mediterranean, its beams piercing through the branches. The Star of David hanging from the her tanned neck sparkled.

Osnat trained her lens upon the Star of David, noting the small beads of sweat glistening on the young woman’s bronze skin. She seemed a wistful beauty, a perfect subject for Osnat’s new sunset photo series. Zooming in and out as the blonde glided around the corner, the older woman let her camera do the work, capturing the pinks and purples of the sky behind the young lady as she made her way to the nearby Jerusalem bus stop. Yosef would have so appreciated the girl’s air of pensiveness…

The middle aged woman traced the camera’s edges with her fingers, remembering how her husband had once held his beloved instrument, one hand under the lens, the other steadily gripping it along the side. In the years before his death, Yosef had taken such pride and pleasure in his hobby, presenting his work at local fairs and framing his favorites for friends and family. In those later years, he was hardly ever without his camera, always looking for graceful birds in flight or unsuspecting children at play. His photography still remained, lining the walls of their house.

After Yosef’s abrupt death, Osnat had taken to emptying out his bedroom and office, unable to gaze at his bookshelves and assorted tchotchkes without sobbing. It was thus she came upon his camera equipment in the office closet. At first, she couldn’t bear look at it, but as the weeks had gradually turned into months, Osnat eventually found herself laying Yosef’s many camera lenses, tripods, flashes and more out on her husband’s bare desk. The bird photographs on the walls looked at her.

It was then that Osnat had decided to teach herself photography. Their son Ephie’s daily kaddish recitation for his father at shul brought her great comfort, knowing that Yosef would have expected and wanted that traditional honor, but she, as a woman, felt out of place among the stern, bearded prayer-goers. Osnat would honor Yosef’s memory through the lens of his own camera.

* * *

Mincha, the afternoon prayer, ended with the recitation of the mourner’s kaddish, which Ephie always stood for. Even after he’d completed his year of kaddish, the young man had continued coming to shul, just as his father had done before him. Ephraim wasn’t much of a believer, but he respected those who somehow managed to find and hold on to faith, including his Abba who had continued attending services long after he’d completed his year of mourning for his father.

He glanced out the window at the sky as its pinks and oranges darkened to purples. Eema was probably out with her camera somewhere, looking for new subjects to capture for her new Jerusalem Sunset series. He knew that she didn’t feel entirely comfortable at shul because of its male-centeredness, which bothered him also. That’s why she’d been so glad that he’d been the one to recite kaddish for Abba.

Of course, some ladies did occasionally come to services to recite kaddish for their parents from the women’s section in the back, but they were hard to see, seated behind the deliberately tall latticed mechitza that separated them from the men’s section. Also, many were self-conscious about their secondary role in the gendered public prayer space and didn’t recite their kaddishes loudly enough for the men to hear them and respond. They were largely unheard and invisible.

Since completing his own year of kaddish, Ephie had come to feel very strongly, as Yosef had before him, about supporting other mourners in the community with a firm, resounding response to their kaddishes; and his seat happened to be in the back, just in front of the women’s section.

Conscientiously, the young man always made sure to time his response with the female mourners behind him: “Yehe shmeh rabba mevarakh leʻalam ulʻalme ʻalmaya!”

* * *

Osnat stood and stretched her legs as the young woman’s bus drove off.

Ephie would soon be praying ma’ariv, the evening prayer service. His Abba’s shul had practically become a second home to him, ever since Yosef died. It pained her to see that the young man was still grieving so deeply, but he had to know that no amount of kaddishes would ever bring Abba back. “At some point, she sighed, “we all have to start living again. The old men at shul were undoubtedly kind souls, but how would Ephie ever meet a young lady if he couldn’t leave the past behind him?

Quietly, Osnat turned in the direction of the Old City, seeing the Western Wall in her mind. Hashem, I’m not a religious woman, but surely You know my heart. Please – help my Ephie heal… it’s already been four years since his Abba died. Please – help my baby move on from his Abba’s death. Please. Please, my Lord. Help him.”

* * *

The young man completed his prayers and glanced around the sanctuary. Were there any mourners present to recite the kaddish? No, it seemed not, he thought sadly. Ephie always felt a sense of incompleteness when no mourners were available to recite the kaddish after services. Somehow, he felt that tradition had actually intended people’s personal kaddishes for the entire community, including the souls of Abba and Saba.

Suddenly, the sound of a door swinging at the back of the women’s section caught his attention, and Ephie made out the sound of somebody walking quickly, nearly running, towards the mechitza. Through the latticework, he could barely make out a female worshipper and heard her clear her throat nervously. Softly, she began reciting the kaddish, muffled through her tears.

None of the other men had noticed the woman’s entrance, and they were too far away to hear her… the necessary prayer quorum was already dispersing!

Ephie stood in place, seriously, deliberately, and intoned his response loudly for all the rest to hear: “Yehe shmeh rabba mevarakh leʻalam ulʻalme ʻalmaya!” The elderly petitioners stopped and looked around the room, trying to figure out whom Ephie was responding to. Through the stillness, they finally heard the woman’s kaddish and crying. Collectively, the men moved closer towards the mechitza to better hear her kaddish.

B’rich hu, they responded together, and then: Amen; Amen!

The mourner completed her recitation, and the men smiled at Ephie as they threw on their jackets and headed for the exit. The sexton patted Ephie on his shoulder; “Tzaddik,” he whispered.

Ephraim shrugged shyly and returned his siddur to the bookshelf, before reaching for the light switch. As he made his way down the corridor, he heard a woman’s voice behind him: “Excuse me? Were you the one standing next to the mechitza?

The young man turned to see a beautiful blonde with tear stained cheeks standing before him. I’m Nechama, she told him, “And I just wanted to say ‘thank you.’”

Pleiades, or: ‘Whatever’

Pleiades – a poetic form

Only one word is allowed in the title of the poem, followed by a single seven-line stanza. The first word in each line begins with the same letter as the title. The line length is restricted to six syllables.

The poetic form is aptly named: the seven lines can be said to represent the seven sisters, and the six syllables represent the nearly invisible nature of one sister.

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Whatever came of my
Wretched inspiration
Which once welcomed ev'ry
Word ~ letter ~ syllable
With endless wonderment
Worthy of those Sisters
Who all had their own ways?

Am, Are, or: Always

no doors in walls to Keep out fear
 just: Look and See, but no walls there...
  once structures, now Convulsing lines
   there's Is, there's Was, less timeless rhymes
    no what, no I, but only Am
     Am Flail for textures; Whisper, "damn..."
      unbearable, Am's Feels Are Galled
       Walled in, Crawling, no space at all!

nouns swiftly Twisting into verbs
 Think straight! no theater left to Be absurd
  Am Think, Think Knows, and on it Goes...
   and then: Am Start. "Do Are Suppose?"
    Are Could Aid Am by Opening...
     the... the... constantly Creaking th...ing?
      Are Know... what... Am... Am Trying to Say...
       dear, Grab the Turns and Pull that... way...

Hope Looks; Look Sees; See Steps; Step Lands-
 Am find myself in Are's... dear hands?
  hands warm... Hands firm, Hands' Form confirms
   Convulsions slow; Walls' Lines conform...
    are... You... am I... I... feared I'd die
     before I... held You one last Time...
      I... want... to say... I've come to see...
       That... You and I... We'll al...ways... be...
   

H/T @Joni

H/T @João-Maria

Watch, or: Don’t

It is my Papa's watch
Now it is not his watch
I did not use to wear a watch
And now again I wear no watch
But I did

Chronos notches Aion's 
Endless hours and minutes
Did his scythe cut Kairos down?
Blind hands feel for 
Fate's flinty face
To finitude they're now attuned
Though it's been said time heals all wounds
Blind hands feel for Fate's flinty face

There's a truth I'd so like to share
With the folks who haven't been there
I knew not pain, but then it came and named me heir
So perhaps you will find me
Spinning clockwise endlessly
I've bared my wrist, 
But found naught there to set me free
I've tried but cannot unknow
The fleetingness of this grand show... 
Although, although... 
Although... 
Although...

Chronos notches Aion's 
Endless hours and minutes
Did his scythe cut Kairos down?
Blind hands feel for 
Fate's flinty face
To finitude they're now attuned
Though it's been said time heals all wounds
Blind hands feel for Fate's flinty face

It is my Papa's watch
Now it is not his watch
I did not use to wear a watch
And now again I wear no watch
But I did

Through my mind's eye I can see
Ancient venerable ancestry
That lived and died as Jews 
So that some day I could be free
A generation stands now (mine)
By merest chance or grand design
Through all those ages tryin', 
Our destinies yet intertwined
Today his watch face is looking at me-
Eternity could never be

Chronos notches Aion's endless hours and minutes
Did his scythe cut Kairos down?
Blind hands feel for 
Fate's flinty face
To finitude they're now attuned
Though it's been said time heals all wounds
Blind hands feel for Fate's flinty face

Distancing, or: Dancing

She dances- freely where air is music in her own home 
Fearful of green waters; of slickened thickening foam
Charting- studying; the Talmud, Torah -the course
Focus; stay sane; stay healthy; still... plunged into wet depths
Masked breaths through that heavy silent lullaby swift swept
Smothered in her queasy bubble uneasily reaching forth

She dances- stretching against taut sticky edges- viscous
Constricting restrictive her mind bears the risks of
Keeping- speaking with; old photographs -active
Routines; days drawn out into months nearing years
Broken; tears muffling the stuff of sacred scared prayers
Slumping into depression; not of God's flood this captive

She dances- as she once defied cruel capture by cancer
Fighting fierce not to ebb first; silence soaking; no answer