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by Mel Weisburd

Though I often visited the graveyard, this time the first order magnitude
of its finality startles me. Gardeners spin edge cutters around the stone mats.
Roses are stuffed in 4:00 P.M. cracks. Red blossoms of the coral trees bulge with astigmatic clarity
in the tearful squint of unshaded eyes. Blackbirds lift in squads
and drop like handkerchiefs thrown by careless children among the headstones.

Black figures mourning the father, husband, brother
make it clear that life seen seen through the squeeze of lenses
is borrowed. I visited him at his open coffin, the features of his face sealed
as if molded in plastic. That was not my father, neither in life or death.

Few feel close, driven apart by envy, guilt. The sociogram of family
can’t make eye contact, or easily say ‘hello’ ‘goodbye.’ The guilt
of not having gotten rich as Howard Hughes chokes in their throats
while the Rabbi slips his name into blanks of boilerplate.
There isn’t much to say, except that he obeyed the law.
He does not ask who will soon be left to remember him. 

I move into position as pall bearer and I feel the weight
of his body within. Yes, he was my father, I think to myself.
I am no better or worse than he. My admission is too late.
Workmen lower the casket with a winch that winds slowly in low gear,
as the rabbi murmurs him down. He passes from our eyes through
the fresh grass. I seem to hear his last words:

  I lie with the dead on the Eager grass.
  The bisons of Poland pass through the trees.
  Dear Son, my dreams are still in the clouds
  over the old neighborhood.


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