sufferance: passive acceptance, tolerance, lack of interference; capacity to endure pain or hardship.
The past staggers about mumbling,
did everything have to happen?
An older sister, stillborn, unnamed. A love-child
given away, never mentioned. Great aunts
who never left Russia or spoke only Yiddish.
Twins born deaf, girlchild with cleft palate,
diphtheria, age 13. Great War, Spanish Flu.
My grandfather played the cello.
It comforted me. It comforted us.
Overdose, suicide, estrangement, AIDS.
Distance renders hands mute, unable to touch
dead bodies. My best friend Jon. Many
laid hands on him, cupped his head
as he vomited. We thought we were witnesses
to the worst kind of loss, because it was us.
There are holocausts and holocausts. They say
the worst death is a child, but times past
children died regularly.
I could not have been born without my mother
or become myself without these deaths.
I go tomorrow if need be, shrouded and arranged
for burial, though unfit for interment
in a Jewish cemetery. Cremate this body
with its tattoos and misdemeanors. Hasten
my death, by all means.
Why observe promises to the dead
yet remain faithless to the living?
So much has happened, happens.
Lives draw to a close. Why such fear
of ordinary oblivion? If you must see me,
come quick and say your goodbyes.