Kaddish by David Ignatow

My grandmother died about a month ago. There’s not really much to say about death and about losing family members that doesn’t end up sounding banal when you say it out loud, so I’ve been looking for works where writers do things that help me understand what it means to lose someone. This has been one of my favorite poems for a long time. I first found it in this wonderful anthology and it’s especially helpful now:

KADDISH

Mother of my birth, for how long were we together
in your love and my adoration of your self?
For the shadow of a moment, as I breathed your pain
and you breathed my suffering. As we knew
of shadows in lit rooms that would swallow the light.

Your face beneath the oxygen tent was alive
but your eyes closed, your breathing hoarse.
Your sleep was with death. I was alone
with you as when I was young
but now only alone, not with you,
to become alone forever, as I was learning
watching you become alone.

Earth now is your mother, as you were mine, my earth,
my sustenance and my strength,
and now without you I turn to your mother
and seek from her that I may meet you again
in rock and stone. Whisper to the stone,
I love you. Whisper to the rock, I found you.
Whisper to the earth, Mother, I have found her,
and I am safe and always have been.

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