Objects of my Affections

Objects, Memory and Meaning

Tag: death

Flight

Flight

A robin slammed
into my window last night
with a sound like a shot.
The room shook
as she flew full throttle
into a mirage of clear blue freedom,
only to meet a blow equal to her power.
I ran to find her on her back,
wildly thrashing, her tail
a flashing gray fan
against red bricks,
her legs bent awry,
before she stilled.
My heart broke a little,
caught again
between love and helplessness.

I thought of my mother
watching me soar into first marriage,
knowing  the danger.
At the wedding, her face betrayed
her fear it was a funeral.
Nonetheless, unasked she’d cooked for days,
platters of her flaky piroshki,
thin buckwheat blini
with sour cream and caviar.

At times our loved ones fly,
fueled by fervor
and innocence, towards a phantom.
Do we hold our hearts open?
Do we stand at our stoves for them?
Can we love ourselves, give thanks,
when we stand again on wobbly legs,
shake our wings, head for
another piece of sky?
Do we pray for the robin
who collided too soon, too hard,
who lay cold and alone,
carried off by a predator in the night?

– Anna Belle Kaufman

Image

Detail from Florilgeum by John Marshall, c. 1650

 Danny Boy

Image

 Danny Boy

I dreamed my dead friend, Dan,
came back. All six feet of him,
dressed as usual, minus shoes.

I offered him some brown size twelves
my uncle left behind.
But he shook his head,

gave me a hug, so strong, so real,
I felt the buttons on his shirt,
the wale of his beige cords.

In stocking feet, we walked the streets
slowly, picking our way
across asphalt knobs and sharp stones.

Dan, you’re dead, a ghost, I said.
and placed my palm against his cheek
to feel slight stubble there.

What have you been doing
all this time? Your wife’s
remarried, your children are grown.

He grinned, It’s classified.
Put a finger to his lips, then gently
blessed my head.

I’ve been watching all of you,
as you watch TV, finding
things to make me smile or laugh.

When I awoke, I understood:
the dead, no longer in our shoes,
take our lives lightly.

Softly as moths,  
they slip among us,
drawn by our joy,
suffusing us with their love.            

                                               – Anna Belle Kaufman

August Bar Mitzvah

by Anna Belle Kaufman

He’d be thirty years this month,
the boy I lost so long ago.
His visage frozen at five,
smiling at me over his shoulder,
gripping the handlebars of his red trike
from behind a rectangle of glass.

Years have muted the pain
the way a brush dipped in water
melts the gash of colorstroke
and sweeps it across the paper
ever paler as it fans farther out.

For the  children who do not stop growing
that first climb to the summit of the jungle gym,
the elation of the slide down,
becomes a graduation,
an engagement,
a fellowship,
a marriage,
a baby.

And each rite of passage, heard or witnessed,
shocks the calm waters of my old grief
like the paint-engorged brush
drops color into the clear rinse
which blooms with sudden
swirls of crimson or,
today, the cerulean blue
of the striped tallit he’d never wear.

Cold Solace, by Anna Belle Kaufman

This poem originally appeared in The Sun Magazine, September 2010.

When my mother died,
one of her honey cakes remained in the freezer.
I couldn’t bear to see it vanish,
so it waited, pardoned,
in its ice cave behind the metal trays
for two more years.

On my forty-first birthday
I chipped it out,
a rectangular resurrection,
hefted the dead weight in my palm.

Before it thawed,
I sawed, with serrated knife,
the thinnest of slices —
Jewish Eucharist.

The amber squares
with their translucent panes of walnuts
tasted — even toasted — of freezer,
of frost,
a raisined delicacy delivered up
from a deli in the underworld.

I yearned to recall life, not death —
the still body in her pink nightgown on the bed,
how I lay in the shallow cradle of the scattered sheets
after they took it away,
inhaling her scent one last time.

I close my eyes, savor a wafer of
sacred cake on my tongue and
try to taste my mother, to discern
the message she baked in these loaves
when she was too ill to eat them:

I love you.
It will end.
Leave something of sweetness
and substance
in the mouth of the world.

Honey cake recipe. This one not my mother’s, but that of the mother of Rachel Hershfield, published in her blog, “Home Sweet and Savory.” (http://www.homesweetandsavory.com.)