not with a bang but a whimper, three poems

BARUCH, THE BAKER

Your heart is smarter, my Baruch,
then your head,
which is smart indeed –
and your hands and gnarly fingers
are smarter still.
They fashion bread from
cream-colored flours,
silky to the touch.
Kneading the dough
patiently, patiently
letting it rise
while I sleep –
safe, in my bed.

Up at six a.m. we walk sleepily
down a lavender-gray street,
an apricot sun peeking at us
and, rising higher in the sky,
it seemingly follows us to you.

Cheer-filled arrival with greetings
and smiles from dear Baruch and
warm sugar smells, yeasty scents
and the sight of golden loaves,
some voluptuous rounds and
others, sturdy rectangulars.
You have baked cinnamon rolls,
a child’s delight, pies and
sticky buns too…and cookies!

“We’ll take a French bread” my Mom says
pointing to a crispy brown baguette.
“And a raisin bread.”
She adds …
“We’ll need that sliced.”

I watch your hands flit gracefully
like butterflies in a green valley
stopping here and then there
to pull fragrant loaves from display
and slicing them, neatly packaging,
then reaching down over the counter
you hand me a little bag of rugelach.

As I look up, reaching for your gift
I stop breathing, arrested by
a wisp of blue on your forearm.
I am studious, a reader, dear Baruch,
I know what that tattoo means …
Looking down, with a whisper I choke
“Thank you, Baruch!”
swallowing that lump of sadness,
trying not to show my tears.
What right have I to tears?
But then you, dear Baruch, come
bounding round the counter
with warm hugs and soft tissues,
as though I was the one hurt.
From that day forever more,
I saw you only in long sleeves.

At lunchtime, I demanded –
“Mom, tell me about Baruch.”
And she does.
I am pensive over our meal,
canned marinara and slices of
of your baguette.
Dear Baruch, with each salty bite
I eat your tears and
the blood of your daughter.
Nights she stares at me from that
sepia photo by your register.

Baruch, did she, like me, assume
a grown-up life
of school and jobs,
marriage and children?
And you! You must have assumed
the tender comfort of
her love in your old age.
Do you hold the vision of her
young and happy in your
brave, kindly old heart?
Does your ear still play back
her childish laughter,
the sound of her voice
begging for a story?
Do your warm brown eyes still hold
her smile in remembrance?
When you see little girls like me,
does your anguish grow?

Dear Baruch, our dear Baruch
how will you set your child free
from that faraway land and
cold, unmarked mass grave?

The eyes are not here
There are no eyes here
In this valley of dying stars
In this hollow valley
This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms
The Hollow Men, T.S. Elliot

© 2008, poem, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved; photograph of a holocaust survivor displaying his arm tattoo courtesy of Frankie Fouganthin under CC BY-SA 2.0 license


SOME MOTHERS HEARTS HAVE STOPPED

Some mothers’ children stare unseeing
No sweet, wet baby kisses from blistered lips,

. . . . songs unsung

No wedding portraits to dust and treasure
No graduations or trips to the sea

. . . . just their bodies to bury

crushed
beaten
stilled

by the engine of nihilism

Limbs cracked and broken, bellies torn
Faces purpled, hearts stopped

Hearts stopped …
. . . . hearts stopped

Some mothers’ hearts have stopped

Some mother's children

Some mothers’ children

“It was a slow and brutal death for so many,” Trump said as he announced the attack on a Syrian airbase, retaliating for the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime. “Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack. No child of God should ever suffer such horror.” 

“Mistah Kurtz-he [lives]
….. A penny for the Old Guy …

Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!”

The Hollow Men, T.S. Elliot

© 2015, poem, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved; photograph of some mothers’ children killed in the Syrian Civil War, Ghouta massacre/uploaded by Bkwillwm to Wikipedia under CC BY 3.0 license (I believe it may be a screen shot from a news video)


THE DOVES HAVE FLOWN

what must it be like for you in your part of the world?
there is only silence, i don’t know your name, i know only
that the fire of Life makes us one in this, the human journey,
trudging through mud, by land and by sea, reaching for the sun
like entering a ritual river without a blessing or a prayer
on the street where you lived, your friends are all gone
the houses are crushed and the doves have flown
there is only silence, no children playing, no laughter
here and there a light remains to speak to us of loneliness,
yet our eyes meet in secret, our hearts open on the fringe,
one breath and the wind blows, one tear and the seas rise,
your grief drips from my eyes and i tremble with your fear

This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.”
The Hollow Men, T.S. Elliot

© poem, 2016, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved; Mindanao Bleeding-heart at London Zoo, England courtesy of Drew Avery under CC BY-SA 2.0 license