your sacred martyrdom in poland,
your creased palms in brooklyn,
the cramped yiddish noises
of your small-roomed apartments, where old friends
and distant cousins drifted in and out.
we have achieved everything
you wished for.
and still my grandfather,
he died of a heart attack all alone
in the spacious basement
of a house he could not afford.
father, recite the lord’s prayer
the way you learned in elementary school,
your old testament name pressed
between your praying hands.
you don’t know the mourner’s kaddish
and neither do i—
at shabbat service
i turn my head in confusion
and shame, unable to join
in the intimate knowledge
of those who cover their faces
and beat their breasts.
the words remain opaque—
not words but shapes—
the worshippers’ faces
like solemn stones to my unbelieving eyes,
my desiring gaze.