Thursday, September 14, 2017

Joanne Giannino's poem in eulogy, Love remembered

Love remembered

Agudas Achim Cemetery, August 31, 2017

As I take my place
Standing a little back, behind the immediate family                   
The rabbi says,
“Now at the grave,
we know for sure that we will not see her again.”

I see the open hole – carved from the earth –
roots reaching out across the chasm created by the sheer cut
perhaps from the tree behind me
its underground limbs
circling above all the bodies of the dead
in their concrete tombs
the simple wood coffins encased but not unreachable:
“We are here with you,” they say.

Of course I thought none of this then,
Only – look, there in that hole in the ground is Dotty,
A woman whom I loved, and loved me.
And, we, none of us will see her smile again.
She is gone from us.

The rabbi says prayers and then gives instructions
To help in this task of certainty:
To shovel earth on top of the casket (to bury her)
To fill the hole dug for her
from which she will not leave
And to encourage us to begin the slow process of grieving.
He shows us: take the shovel from the pile of earth,
Turn it first upside down to feel your reluctance
Take a little earth, cast it onto the casket.
He does. The thud resonates.
Second turn it right side up to assist in the work,
perform a final kindness for her,
a mitzvah.
He does. Another thud.
With a firm slice, he returns the shovel to the pile.

Suddenly, workers appear
in tattered boots and
decidedly not funeral clothes
They move assuredly among the mourners,
over the grass, around the pile of earth,
they lower a concrete slab, then another
to form a solid covering over the casket
while those closest to her throw flowers
to kiss her one last time:
something soft to touch her
before she is gone from them, forever.

Then we take turns as instructed.
I throw my two shovelfuls and
try not to hear the thud nor
see the growing mound below.

Two young men, her grandson and a nephew,
take their time,
place a shovelful tenderly
into each of the four corners,
and along the sides of the grave,
carefully, as she might have
as she filled a baking pan
making a cake for one of them,
smoothing out the batter
so it would lay (rise)
just right.

Joanne Giannino
Joanne Giannino

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