Searching for my mother's grave among headstones
like crowded teeth. Names cut into granite, marble, limestone.
Sklar, Jacoby, Berkovitch, Posner: names of dead strangers
I will carry from Montreal back to PEI.
Crowded teeth cut names into granite, marble, limestone,
as if by the elements of precious days.
I will carry from Montreal back to PEI
gravel in my pocket, a scent of memento mori.
The elements of precious days
come back in dreams filled with
gravel. In my pocket, the scent of memento mori
haunts the drawers and closets in this hotel of my birth.
"Come back!" is the recurring dream. Filled with
an indifference to my health, the open window sings a chill
that haunts the drawers and closets in this hotel of my birth.
I repair to the bar and raise a glass in the face
of indifference. "To my health!" the open window sings. A chill
from the hearth blows ashes into foundation cracks.
I repair to the bar and raise a glass to my faith.
"Drink up for tomorrow we die!" Gravel clinks in the tip jar.
The hearth blows ashes. In foundation cracks
the dead rattle off a litany of regrets and beckon the living to
drink to tomorrow. We die, gravel clinks. In the tip jar
all the coins are donated to cover eyes that will not stay closed.
The dead rustle, letting any regrets beckon to the living.
Sklar, Jacoby, Berkovitch, Posner are dreaded names that strangely
coincide. Eyes that will not stay closed
search for my mother, grateful among headstones.
In girlhood you inhabited the winding staircases
along Avenue de l'Hôtel de Ville. Snowflakes imprinted
your tongue with a desire to speak to the future.
Raindrops pinned your limbs to the past.
Along Avenue de l'Hôtel de Ville, snowflakes imprinted
helixes in the bloodstream. Laughter erupted from
raindrops pinned to your limbs. To the past,
you concocted prayers in hope of warding off
hexes in the blood. Steaming laughter erupted from
the milkman's horse and the yeshiva boys for whom
you concocted prayers. In hope of warding off
the Evil Eye, your mother's hand struck you daily.
The milkman's horse and the yeshiva boys formed
a procession, trudging under the observance of
the Evil Eye. Your mother's hand struck you daily.
A funeral for the brother you never knew visited as
a procession, undermining tragedy in an observance of
guilt. The shadow of the cross on the mountain crept
like a funeral. The brother you never knew visited as
bones sprouting from a patch of dirt behind the tenement.
Guilt shadowed the cross. On the mountain crest
you picked wildflowers and put an ear to the rumbling
of bones. On a patch of dirt behind the tenement
saints and tzaddiks rolled dice to settle their grudges.
You picked wildflowers and tuned an ear to a rambling
tongue in a desire to speak to the future.
Sons of tzaddiks rolled dice back to the shtetls. Gradually,
the girlhood you inhabited blew across the windy staircases.
My body is a cemetery map, the navel a freshly dug grave.
I exist only as Flesh, Bone, Blood, Sinew: names I carry
into sleep, into longing, only to wake up
seconds ahead of the light, the sky dissolving.
I exist only as flesh. Bone, blood and sinew are mere names. I carry
an instinct for following certain pathways, circling endlessly,
seconds ahead of the light. The sky, dissolving
into a wash of ennui, disappears behind towers.
An instinct for following certain pathways, circling endlessly,
brings to mind kicking the bucket. What language!
Watch, ennui disappears. Behind towers
clarity shimmers unlike anything I have known,
bringing to mind kicking the bucket. That kind of language?
The phrase is derived from a form of suicide: hanging oneself.
Clarity shivers. Unlike anything I have known,
the impulse for self-destruction is in a shard of the mirror.
The phrase is contrived. A form of suicide, hanging oneself
entails a final act of free will, a kicking away of the bucket.
The impulse is for self-destruction. In a shard of mirror
I tilt every angle, searching out my own death.
The tale of a final act: Free Will kicking away the bucket.
Do we build up these myths to sugarcoat the irrational?
I tilt every angle, searching. Out of my own death
I hold a mirror to the last breath of self-deception.
Do we not break down these myths to rationalize
sleep? In their longing, the lonely wake up
and hold a mirror to their last breath. Self-deception
turns my body into a cemetery. Map the navel then dig a fresh grave.
The sprig of lilac in your hair was a signal to the world
that the season of remorse had passed and a budding
flirtation with cab drivers and soda jerks was ready to commence.
The downtown ashtrays would soon bloom with lipstick filters.
The season of remorse had passed; its bedding,
once shapeless as a straitjacket, was smoothed
down. In town the ashtrays would soon bloom. Stick figures
in your mind were replaced by bartenders and maître d's.
One so shapeless, you straightened your jacket and smoothed
your skirt for department store salesmen. The fluttering curtains
in your mind were from another place. Bartenders and maître d's
spoke to you in soothing tones. In a different mood, you would
skirt the department stores, the flattering salesmen. Curtained
changing booths felt too confining, like rooms where doctors
spoke to you. Their soothing tones put you in a diffident mood.
Caught somewhere in between, you knew your two selves were
changing. Both felt too confining. The rooms where doctors
asked you to undress created a sensation of being buried alive.
Caught somewhere. In between, you knew your two selves were
moving farther apart, stationed at either end of the pendulum.
You asked which dress would create the sensation of being. Buried alive
in this third identity, you could only watch earth and sky
moving farther apart. At either end, the stationary pendulum
froze each day into blocks. Your movements were sluggish
in this third identity. You could only watch earth and sky
and flirt with cab drivers and soda jerks, ready to commence,
each day freezing into blocks of movement. In the sluggish
spring, your lilac hair was a signal to the world.
My own death stares back at me
from the faces of cemetery employees,
landscapers and gardeners driving backhoes
and setting up sprinkler systems. The work is continuous.
From their faces, cemetery employees
must not give a second thought to mortality, lulled by the
setting up of sprinkler systems that work. Is continuous
labour the antidote to the Reaper's culture?
Must we not grieve for a second? Though Mortality (lulled into
keeping busy) loses its bearings in this love affair with
labour, the antidote to the Reaper's culture
is to break free from the linear.
Keeping busy? Losing its bearings, Love becomes unfair
when everything is happening at once. All we hold dear has no choice
but to break. Free from the linear?
Then who gives a damn? I'd argue with my own death.
When everything is happening at once, all we hold dear has no chance.
I know I should try to make peace with the Reaper. Time is short.
"Me, damned?" I'd argue. With my own death,
the fun is in the bargaining. What have I got to offer? What secret do
I know? I should try to make peace. With the Reaper, time is short.
Is that why mourners love to dawdle, like there's all the time in the world?
For them it's just beginning. What I offer has nothing to do with any secret
I might have up my sleeve. There's no ace in the hole.
That's what mourners love, to dawdle all the time. In the real world
landscapers and gardeners drive back their fears with hoes.
I might have. Up my sleeve, there's no ace. In the hole
my own death stares back at me.
You were reduced to a weightless concentration
planted in an acre of bed. In that last light, sheets
took on the papery betrayal of skin curling away.
Your hand, like smoke, motioned to the boy at the door.
Planted in a nacreous bed, the last of the light shimmered
through a thread count, unravelling at the touch
of your hand, like smoke. Motionless, the boy at the door
never dared to look away. You spoke certain names and made
a thorough head count, revelling in the touch
of a cherished friend or passing acquaintance. The boy listened,
never caring how it looked or the way you spoke. Certain names made
him wonder who you thought was actually in the room.
As if a cherished friend or passing acquaintance, the boy listened
to the rattle in your throat erupt into coughing fits.
He wandered through the room, actually
believing he could smell a presence in the stale air.
The rattle in your throat erupted. A coffin was fated
to replace the bed. The boy crept in beside you,
believing he could stall the presence . Your stale hair
reminded him of something washed up on a beach.
Two places in the bed. The boy slept beside you.
Not for the first time, you wondered what would
remind him of you. Something wafted from a branch
through the window. You crossed your arms,
not for the first time. The woody mouldering
of potpourri, a betrothal of skin. Curling away
through the window, you caressed your arms,
reduced to a weightlessness. A consecration.
I place a pebble on her headstone. Other graves
boast of many visitors, a multitude of pebbles.
But hers has only mine, stone on stone,
a sculpture of mother and child.
Boats of visitors, a multitude of people
came to this country, my mother among them.
A sculpture of mothers and children
in steerage class is represented by these pebbles and markers.
Come to this country. My mother is among the
the Republic of Silence. They don't mind
if you stare. Age, class are resented by this public. Machers
don't exist here. Secrets level out this playing field
(hence the Republic of Silence). They don't mine
any kind of nostalgia for the old country. Their stories
don't exist. Here, secret levels play out on a field
of anonymity. On the footpath I compare stones
as a kind of nostalgia. Far from the old country, their stories
calcify into these nuggets of remembrance.
Anonymity, my foot. Pathetic. Pare stones
into grains of salt by rubbing old wounds.
Crucify these nuggets of remembrance
then serve them to future generations on a seder plate
with grains of salt. By rubbing old wounds
we can preserve the fruits of our bitterness
then serve them to the future. Generations in a seed.
Hers has only my stone. In stone
we can persevere, despite frittering these hours of bitterness.
I place a pebble on my head. The other stones grieve.