The Poetry Bar

Beast or Memoir

Every day he ponders writing; demons, seraphs jostling, fighting
O’er memories alighting, dreams and images of Papa.
Late at night he sees him living, gentle-hearted and forgiving;
Daily, nightly, he is grieving- for Papa, forever gone.
As the earth turns, he considers that he’ll be forever gone
Naught is left of mind nor brawn.

As the earth’s been spinning, turning, one dream has been oft recurring
Deep in darkness there lies stirring a vile, shifty chimera.
It’s but wishful thinking really, very foolish, rather silly,
Still, through dreamscapes rugged, hilly, slinks that taunting chimera.
She’s unbidden, uninvited, is his taunting chimera
Forward, forward she is gliding, fed on memories of Papa.

Asleep? Awake? He’s kaddish speaking, praying, swaying, then- a creaking-
‘Tis the floorboards creaking, squeaking; and behind him stands Papa.
How, he stammers, have you come here, I’ve been mourning you all year, Dear
Papa, tell me, can you hear me- can you hear me, Dear Papa?
Reading, thinking, writing, praying, I’ve been mourning, Dear Papa…
Aren’t you… aren’t you… actually… aren’t you actually gone?

No, no… you must have forgotten (though you are my first-begotten),
That hospital was naught but rotten; the doctors said I didn’t have long…
But we dismissed their dire prognosis; HaShem reversed the diagnosis
He gave me life that I’d find gnosis- bid me wear my black kippah.
So here I am, and you’re done praying. May I have back my black kippah?
Please give it here; I’m your Papa.

Dawn break; awake; dripping; sweating. And- then- he knows what’s most upsetting
All this time he’s been forgetting… to lift his phone and call Papa.
Rising from his restless slumber, lifts his phone and dials the number
Has he been somewhat unencumbered? … but Papa’s cellphone isn’t on.
The earth’s still spinnin’ n’a-turnin’, but Papa’s cellphone isn’t on
Naught’s ever left of love forgone.

In Hebrew, ‘ben’ (בן) means ‘son’ or ‘son of’.
* * *
ben Alexander was born in Jerusalem to parents who made Aliyah from the USSR in the mid-70’s. He grew up in America, and returned to Israel as an adult. He works for Hiddush – Freedom of Religion in Israel. He and his wife and daughter live in Jerusalem.
He began writing the ‘Skeptic’s Kaddish for the Atheist’ in Jerusalem, Israel, 30 days after burying his father in South Brunswick, New Jersey, USA. His series was originally published on the Times of Israel blogs.
Read his kaddish memoir.


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