Standing at the Cemetery

From: Standing at the Cemetery
Over the Graves of my mother, father
grandfather, grandmother

August 14, 2008

I am about to turn sixty

I was visiting their graves in Detroit
They are buried within jumping distance of each other
Where time elapses
Ten years twenty years
Equalized underneath a bed of petunias newly planted.
The road jumps between generations
At the cemetery.

I stood on their graves and told them about the events
Of the last year or two
Filled them in on our children
Remembered the duty I have
To fill in
For my children
Who my people are
And how they walked in the world.

I think we mourn too easily
The people I bury hardly ever spend shiva
In seven days of mourning
I think shiva should be seven years
We should throw ourselves onto the ground
Spread dirt on our faces
Live in squalor on the floor
Until we can stand up again
Drag ourselves to our feet because
Our reservoir of tears has finally dried up

I am in mourning all the time for everything and everyone
I have loved the most.

Visiting with my people
There was no one else in the cemetery that day
I forgot to bring stones
There are generally no stones lying about
But that day there was one stone on my grandfather’s grave
Which I had placed there the last time I visited.
I found a stone in the grass nearby
And placed it on his daughter’s grave
My mother
Who mourned for him ferociously.

I am just like my mother
My grandfather
My father
My grandmother.

We are all born before
And we are born
Again and again.

For my children


The Soul On Friday

When her soul made her passage
I sang one of the tunes she preferred
Into Your hands I entrust my spirit
All the words that day
Read or sung
Jumped off the page
As if the white fire turned soft bluish green
The black fire leapt differently off the white fire.

Some of the words changed significance entirely

they became nuanced
In a way I never heard before.

The above-mentioned bluish green
Was the color of her soul as it was finding its way home.
Her soul was catching fire and burning Itself into new form
I felt it.
It had called to me the night before
And I awoke
I didn’t pay enough attention so I went back to sleep
But I knew in the morning
That I had been visited by her
Roaming soul that night.

Some friends and family gathered around her bed in the morning.
Every word I sang to her
Into Your hands I entrust my spirit
At the time I lie down
And the time I rise up

I had to pause after that
To let the words relax
They were banging all over the room.

With my spirit my body too
God is with me
I shall not fear

I thought I was going to be swallowed up into the ground then
My feet became so heavy
With the weight of my own soul
Settling into my body.

I thought it was going to take hours
Perhaps days for her soul to leave her body
Because her color was deep in her flesh and life-like
Her eyes open and seeing
And her breathing was labored but steady
Her eyes open with a sense of recognition
As we all spoke to her.

Everyone thanked her
Told her that they were going to be fine
And wished her soul courage for the journey
To the ancestors and the meeting with God.
We wished her soul well along its way.

Her soul departed her body some time before noon.
The body color had of course faded
And her soul had begun its journey
And the vessel of her soul
No longer looked like the soft skin
Smiling at the world from underneath
Her mop of hair.

It took some time for the funeral parlor to arrive
I sat with her vessel in the typical way that we accompany
And honor the vessel
That works so hard to house our souls
Because our souls
Are flamboyant
They are hard to contain
They burn bluish green,

And light up
From within
Our holy bodies

So I sat with the Temple that housed her soul
At the edge of the sea
The place where we push off from into the unknown
The Sea.

Blessed be her soul
As she moves out from her Temple
To the Great Sea
As she makes her way home to her ancestors
Who inhabit a far-away place —

Far away from
Where they once dwelled.

Why I Wear a White Tallis At Night

Why I Wear A White Tallis At Night*

Out of the narrowness [MeiTzaR], I called to HaShem – Psalms 118:5
If your sins are red like crimson, they shall become white like wool [TzeMeR] — Isaiah 1:18

My tallis is white
Made of wool
Tzaddi Mem Resh

I wear it in the night time
Only once a year
When I am drawing down
God’s complete mercy
On my little life.

Out of the narrowness
I call on You
Mem tzaddi resh


When I am in Meitzar
I need compassion
Drawn down from within
My cloak of Tzemer,

My sins turn white
The nature of my deeds

Narrowness to Wool
Meitzar to Tzemer

That’s why I wear
A white tallis
At night.

*I heard this from the Breslovers, said Blue. Everything else seemed theoretical,
this was about forgiveness and the weight that we carry around with us.
Every year we release the burden of the past,
and we intention ourselves for the future.
It’s about forgiveness. And whatever it was?
It can be re-worked.
Only God has such big floppy hands.