When my father’s brother Moshe died –
He was twelve; my father three –
All mention of him ceased. Years later
My father asked hadn’t he once
Had another brother? His mother cried
But said nothing. Some families
Are like that. He died young? Do your best
To forget him. My mother’s mother
Slipped on ice and died giving birth to her.
My mother surely used her stubborness
And cunning to find out everything
The grownups didn’t want to remember.
I can imagine her treasuring each slip
Listening carefully for the moment
Her mother’s ghost would appear
As part of a story or to date some event
“That was just before Lillian quit her job
Because her friend Essie was fired,” or
“I met Lil’s old boyfriend on the train today –
The one who worked in a bakery and brought
Huge loaves of bread when he dropped by.”
My mother, who wrote down many things
Wrote almost nothing about her mother
Except that they shared a name and that
She died because she slipped on ice
On a day when most of the ice had melted.
She surely knew everything though
And what she didn’t know she would
Have made up had I asked.