Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash. Leonard Cohen

Saturday, October 25, 2014


You always called me
your little tsouris
I thought it was a term of endearment
Like a lost word,
[it comes] back unbidden *
with your memory

You said you knew
the dark spirits would follow me
because my name was uttered
in your eighth month
 You tried
to love me but
when you looked at me,
you saw the dybbuk
and recoiled

You accused me 
of trying to turn you into a ghost
when I named my doll after you
I didn't know
I was only ten

On your grave today
I placed a stone
I'm still trying, Mother.

* For Ella's prompt, we were instructed to include a line from a ghost poem. I chose "Unbidden" by Rae Armantrout

Poet's Notes: I've made mention of several Jewish words superstitions in this poem:
  • tsouris = heartbreak, worry
  • uttering baby's name during pregnancy will alert evil spirits
  • dybbuk = an evil spirit that possesses the living
  • naming a baby after someone still alive is akin to wishing them dead
  • instead of flowers, Jews place a stone when visiting a grave

submitted for Magpie Tales, Mag 242
and Imaginary Garden With Real Toads, Play It Again, Toads #10, Hallows Edge


Kerry O'Connor said...

This poem takes the theme of mother-daughter relationships to a whole other level. I read a thread of fear from start to finish - the mother's dread of being supplanted by her daughter, as if her birth rendered her mother unnecessary. It is a fascinating psychology and your inclusion of Jewish vernacular really grounded the piece in culture. This really made me think.

Marcoantonio Arellano (Nene) said...

eerily learned something here. between your 'mother' dedication and Kerry's comments, it introduced me, a man never to feel or be maternal, into a realm totally unfamiliar.

enjoyed, mi amiga

brudberg said...

So sad indeed growing up with so many rules to break.. And that it matters.. I'm glad you still put a stone on her grave..

Ella said...

The unsettling rises through your words! I love how you did this and it chilled me to the bone. The mother's dread and the daughter's hope of being loved-I am haunted!

Grandmother Mary said...

This is heartbreaking. The daughter just wanting mother's love, the mother incapable, the daughter still trying. Sad and haunting.

Wolfsrosebud said...

so sad... you captured this emotion so well

Anonymous said...

Nice. I love the way you wove the Jewish words into the story. It is sad that the mother was so superstitious and how her assumptions were so foreign to the child's understanding.

Susie Clevenger said...

I can relate to this piece...there always seemed to be a distance between my mother and I. Her death still has my trying to make her see/hear me...beautiful melancholy

ZQ said...

Well done!

Susan said...

Aieee. The way some Jewish mothers can undermine in dulcet tones! You are not alone. I was spared, but not my cousins. Your poem is brilliant!

rallentanda said...

You have had a hard beginning but it might have made you more empathetic to suffering and more giving than most.That would be something good that came out of an awful situation.Good poem.

Archer's Bones said...

Beautiful and heartbreaking. Thank you for sharing.

Margaret said...

Fantastic story poem and the "I didn't know
I was only ten: was placed perfectly in the poem.