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A SORT OF KADDISH

Today, entering the house from the garden,

I turned, involuntarily, to look back,

but saw nothing more than what is always there,

small rooms of eclectic evergreens – olive,

camellia, rhododendron, bay –

and, for some reason, I thought of my father

dead for almost as long as I have lived.

 

I have shuffled what I know of him

like a pack of cards in a game of patience

for a lifetime – would he approve, be proud,

that twenty six year old secular Jew

from North West London, a personable

young man by all accounts, whose friends were artists?

 

As I grew old enough to be his father,

and then his grandfather, I began

to think of him less and less with longing,

but always as my loss, and my mother’s,

when she lived, and his family’s – and my loss

had as much to do with a heritage lost

in that pack of cards as with lost love.

 

Today, I thought, for the first time, of what

he had lost – of all those years never known,

of all the sweetness of being alive –

and hoped, as he lay dying from sepsis

four thousand miles from those he loved,

he became too delirious to see

what he would never know.

 

 

 

© Copyright David Selzer
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9 Responses
  • Catherine Reynolds
    August 27, 2021

    This is such a personal poem of loss, David. Loss of a father, a husband and friend to others. Loss of acknowledgement and feelings of being loved and valued. But, as you say, the loss of a life not yet fully lived, perhaps even not imagined. His death, many miles from home, distant from friends and family, is a tragic experience of things unrequited.

  • Sizwe Vilakazi
    August 27, 2021

    Well augmented sense of loss

  • Ian Craine
    August 28, 2021

    Moving, very moving

  • Ashen Venema
    August 30, 2021

    As our world is grieving, our losses come to the fore.
    You express yours so poignantly …

    …I have shuffled what I know of him
    like a pack of cards in a game of patience
    for a lifetime – would he approve, be proud…

    A line from Clarice Lispector comes to mind, from ‘A Breath of Life.’
    … ‘Long live the dead because we live in them.’ …

  • Jane Barth
    August 30, 2021

    ‘of all the sweetness of being alive …’ This line cut into me and made me aware of how we waste that sweetness. We are so careless.

  • John Huddart
    August 31, 2021

    It is the first verse which supplies the sense your father’s being still there. Gardens being the places of growth and the repositories of continuity, year in, year out. No wonder we are slaves to them. Fine poem.

  • arthur kemelman
    September 1, 2021

    Just a few words to compliment you on – A Sort of Kaddish. I liked it very much. The way you handled the motifs of presence/non-presence, longing and loss and memories like playing cards created a very powerful and touching poem.

  • Las Finix
    September 17, 2021

    What he had found –
    for all those years premeditated
    for being alive is not only in flesh
    but in essence
    he lay dying in sepsis
    to be a witness-
    And in delusion
    became our history
    That what is always there presents us
    of who was and is – always there.

  • Alan Horne
    October 4, 2021

    It’s all been said in the preceding comments, but this is a great poem.

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