My father heads our table,
cheeks flushed from the first cup of wine.
At sunset he left his wallet upstairs
with bags of quarters from the vending machines.
He's making jokes and laughing with his mouth shut,
giving us his bright side--boy, clown, inventor.
Tonight by candlelight even the sullen teenagers
are cheerful, my sister Elaine and I,
glowing from apples and walnuts soaked in wine.
Aunt Marilyn Is alive, sitting across from me.
Her breasts are hers again, untouched by cancer.
The New York Grandma is beside her
in a cotton housedress, two lines of berry lipstick
pressed on her faded mouth.
She's laughing, "Oy, stop it, Harry!" as my father
teases her. Letting go of want and pogroms.
My mother is no longer a martyr.
Pharoah has set her free so she can recline,
tasting her frothy matzoh balls,
delighting in all she has created.
This is Passover, an invitation
to our freer selves to join us,
an invitation to the poor to come and join.
My father loved kids, especially poor ones,
seeing himself starving back in Brooklyn.
He liked to buy ice cream for any hungry child
he found hanging around the stand.
The prayerbook tells us, "The dead shall live on earth
in the good deeds they performed here,
and in the memory of those who live after them."
That's it, no big party, though this evening
circulating like sad music in the fragrant air
all the Jews who ever lived are still alive.
from Packing Light: New and Selected Poems (Black Widow Press), 2009, pp. 135-136.
Causes Marilyn Kallet Supports
Southern Poverty Law Center, US Holocaust Memorial Museum, ACLU, Amnesty International, Save Darfur.