Listen!, the Rabbi says, God is One. Listen for what comes next.
When death arrives shema is a mezuzah on the threshold
of your lives, the soul’s last words before leaving a body.
But I no longer hear the hawk’s cry above the fields
where you left us. I can no longer count all the bones
that have buried themselves in me. Only the rabbi’s voice,
this stranger who entered the last ten minutes of a life
when the daughters and all their hours could not give the word
to let you go. A woman who spoke past tubes and sheets,
beyond a face swollen from the fall and the eyelids sealed
past opening. She told you what a good job you’d done,
forgave all the secrets--the locked drawers finally open —
their invisible contents drifting into the clinical air. Her words,
the blood moving through us as we held hands – the road
and the river as we felt you pass, not so heavy as a song,
not even snow on the bough melting. I listened, I watched.
You were so silent, Mother, I could not hear you leave.
(previously published in Tiferet)