A LOG



                                                                                                            "Who touches this

                                                                                                            Touches a man"






In Rochester my father is dying and I

am buying groceries in New York

pushing a cart down the aisle..

Orit picks out vegetables;

we discuss meal plans I

will not be there to follow




In a rush to catch the flight 

we light the first candle for Hanukkah


as if ritual will save us





At the airport I am dressed in black

already in mourning.  


Staring forward, hands folded ‑

what right have I to read


when he may now be gone






A blurred photograph ‑

dapper father and preening child ‑


My happiest moments were 

wearing that flowered crocheted vest

and walking hand in hand

with a man 

in a soft cream suit






You without me ‑ I without you

like a knocker without a door


My mother had sung tunelessly in Yiddish

a year ago as we waited through his hernia operation


Terrified ‑ tears starred her eyes

as she thought of her husband, her prize.


Two days and he was already shaving,

his hair combed by the pretty nurse,


making his lover bird‑nervous

by not finishing all his good food.


You without me ‑ I without you

like a knocker without a door




As he fights his way out of a coma

she caresses the unpierced spaces on his naked chest

between the heart monitors, the Swan‑Ganz catheter

the tubes, drains and IVs, is bare flesh, hairs

around taut nipples.  "Fishele", she coos, absurdly

erotic and crooning, "Poor baby."


More absurd, I order words in my brain

write them now ‑ someone says: if he dies

no one will know the valor of his fighting flesh


Better to note the eros, the glory

then bury it in an elegy







I call home five six times a day

crazily sensual conversations


At night ‑ sleeping on a couch in my parents' study

my arms ache for your arms.








From down the hall I see his room, the bed, his legs


his legs ‑ move ‑ raise and lower in sequence:

minutes out of a coma, hours from an craniotomy,

the man, with all that is left of his brain, tells


himself: start physiotherapy, recovery, the road back.








The years of struggle!

aging parents from a distant land

with foreign fiats for a modern Miss.


It was my mother who made the rules.

He ‑ passive, gentle, accepting ‑ believed 

in compromise for the sake of peace.  I

rebelled against the both of them, but forgave

at least ‑ his philosophy






Broad shouldered, clean cut

at seventy eight he still cuts a trim figure ‑

even here ‑ in Intensive Care ‑ the room

closest to the nurses' station ‑ he is

darkly handsome







On the shelf in the study ‑ among more pretentious tomes

a thin red book I learned to read from

by sounding out words to my father

on Sunday mornings:

"The Human Machine" ‑ a superficial little thing

of no use ‑ now







The heating in my parents' flat

makes intermittent noises ‑ like the respirator

by his bed ‑ I wake when it stops


Is he alive?






XI   "Surgeons must be very careful"



My mother weeps

when the doctor lists the possible dangers.

All night she sobs ‑ he is slipping from her


I go into the study and shut the door

no more can I comfort her


for what I fear myself







When I am gone

angels hover about my mother -

Neighbors and friends comfort, alleviate,

drive, cook, fetch and retrieve


My presence chases all away

I am the one









The trees ‑ baring ‑

reveal abandoned nests


The ground not quite frozen

shows who has been


and walked away 







In the evening I deplore

her self indulgence, shut my door

on her pacing, wandering, weeping

and swear myself strong




Ezi!  I don't want to die

with a tube down my throat

but with you in my arms.





XVI  Nightmare


His skin is so fine ‑ the skin

of a much younger man.  At night

remembering his naked flesh in a hospital bed

I think of you ‑ And suddenly you are lying there

unconscious, unshaven, tubes in all orifices


I wake









Morning, I awake late

with a start ‑ we should be

in hospital by now


Mother sits, weeping, at the kitchen table

"He went into coma"  "When?"

"Last night when we left." "How

do you know?"  "I feel it

in my heart."


Unwashed, unfed, I race with her to his room ‑

Nurse Ilsa, fussing with the confused tubes, 

tells us he was just awake

stuck out his tongue, wiggled his toes


Now he sleeps ‑ shaven, clean,

at peace




I become an expert at intensive care

know each tube, bottle, lock, flush -

Where it comes and goes and why

the spaghetti lifeline






His eyes, closed since morning, are the keys.

Can he be roused?  I shout

for all Intensive Care to hear.  "Wake up Dad!"

twenty times before they flicker like a trick shade


The Rabbi claps his hands, my mother rejoices, 

I turn my back and weep.








Take all the tubes out let's go home!

Enough of this game, this little episode.


Open your eyes and jump up,

"Hello Mother, I knew it was you!"





And now, ere I descend

into yet another dark valley of grief

I demand another chance for diversion



of sex




"My only comfort

would be a furtive fuck in the broom closet

now."  I'd say.  Ezi

would look at me without wonder

squeeze my hand, and buy

a bar of chocolate.






This urge, obsession to record

like the hourly checks the nurses make

on his nerves






He turns his head, pressing his lips together with closed eyes.

I am reminded of my infant son, stretching in sleep, warm

after a feeding ‑ dry, comfortable, at the beginning of his life -

"It's probably a reflex," Ilsa says.  But she too

looks down at the old man sleeping with a beaming face.







The feast of lights ‑ an eight night miracle of oil

Today is Friday ‑ half way through the menorah



"The first 48 hours is crucial"

The surgeon said at first

"Then we will begin worrying

about injury to the brain stem,

heart, pneumonia, infection


The fourth day ‑ tomorrow I leave





On my deathbed,

give me jokes ‑ 

drugs if there is pain ‑

And jokes


Jokes about dying






How many times have I seen my own death.

Dropping off under anesthesia,

driving storm blind on a snowy road,

death easy as falling asleep,

relief from a weary life.




Still ‑ 

going away, I am smitten

with guilt.  Who

will guard her, soothe

when the news

is not so good


Rochi calls to say

we must take care of our elders

If only to show our children

how to behave with us.


Ha!  I turn and wave good‑by

I don't want my kids 

stopping their lives for me.





The pumping respirator, my loving friend

a soft puffed piston, whispering a muffled rhythm


like the clock we would wrap in flannel for the orphan kitten.


Keep your beat for him while I am gone.







Saturday, the fifth candle,

the surgeon greets us with happy hands.

He is awake, alert, improving each day


The watery eyes, still immobile from the pressure

receding on the optic nerve, stare at her

as she takes his hand


"I love you," she gurgles.

A tear drops down the swollen cheek.







As she snores on the waiting room sofa

I wonder

how will we celebrate this holiday at home

what fireworks could we set off


That would not draw the evil eye






Going in to say good‑bye:


The curtain is partly closed

The nurse and an orderly

try to move the tracheal tube

to the other side of his mouth


He fights, flailing both arms, his legs,

knotting all the tubes, even in his heart.


In the florescent light

the pain

seems unbearable







A furtive call to the resident on duty

on my way to the airport,

and the situation is seen in a different light ‑

"Not out of danger" 

How much easier to digest 

our jocular surgeon's strange:

"We're still in the ball park"


So hard to leave

a weeping old woman

a man tied 

to endless tubes


simply to keep myself alive







Remembering the wounds

the zipper in his head, 

the blackened veins



tears slip from me

here in the airport

waiting to leave





At the ticket counter, I make reservations to return


Far from the hospital, I feel the tubes

pulling at my wounds







In black, I seat myself opposite

a mauve robed tonsured monk.

He wears rubber sandals ‑ bare long nailed toes

I anticipate a diversion from pain

regain my composure.  He

gathers his parcels and departs.









Home again.  Take me

out to eat, to see

pictures, movies, street scenes

Take me







A turn 

for the worse ‑ Mother

says on the phone ‑ a cliche

I think ‑ don't give me