(1948 / OVER 400 POEMS SERVED! !)

Preface To A Long Poem About Death

I used to believe we're born once and die.
I was pretty young then and didn't know what death was—
Maybe bullets from a machine gun on a TV show,
Which I thought I could put my hands out to stop.

Our Rabbi never spoke of death
Except in the Friday services
When the organ would play background music
And a hush blanketed the congregation
At the word 'Yisgodol', which began Kaddush.

Christians sometimes ranted about death and Judgment,
But that was a parallel world, I was a reform Jew,
One of the ones who wore a red cape for Christmas carols
But never sang on the word 'Christ'.

We believed the Russians would come one night
In their planes, dropp bombs and kill us all,
I asked my dad and he said yeah, it would happen.
What I worried about, though, was not death
But the possibility I'd be on the toilet
When the sirens went off, and my family
Would already have left town by the Emergency Route.

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Comments (3)

Philippa'Yisgodol' is the first word of the Hebew Mourner's Prayer, though I don't know the literal translation, except that I don't think there's much in it about mourning. Here's a translation of the Kaddish prayer: May the great Name of God be exalted and sanctified, throughout the world, which he has created according to his will. May his Kingship be established in your lifetime and in your days, and in the lifetime of the entire household of Israel, swiftly and in the near future; and say, Amen. May his great name be blessed, forever and ever. Blessed, praised, glorified, exalted, extolled, honored elevated and lauded be the Name of the holy one, Blessed is he- above and beyond any blessings and hymns, Praises and consolations which are uttered in the world; and say Amen. May there be abundant peace from Heaven, and life, upon us and upon all Israel; and say, Amen. He who makes peace in his high holy places, may he bring peace upon us, and upon all Israel; and say Amen.
Even though this poem is ostensibly about death, it's rather airy and light. I like how it flows with with an easy originality and a slice-of-life attitude.
Nice Max. You know I'm addicted to a well-written stanza, especially a poem broken up into quatrains or couplets, or just one long tight, flowing stanza. I just think it looks orderly and beautiful on the page. So that, with the conversational flow is nice. Thumbs up.