Sunday, 17 September 2017


by Judith Offer

Without any warning
He has broken all our words,
Carried them around his town
Leaving them at doorsteps:  Unattached,
They hop whatever breeze and rustle off,
Unconnected, with nothing to mean by.
Is that why you wander your yard,
Collecting the floating autumn leaves?
            We will basket them with you
            If you show us which ones.

The night that you told us
We burned your pain in our fireplace
And when it was ashes
Buried it in our love. We would have
Slept with you between us like a baby,
And on into the next day
Which grayed over and teared quietly,
Like you, trying not to disturb.
            It’s too late:  We’re long past not caring
            And we have to cry, too.

In the cold sunrises
Your fair child sleeps uneasy
To dreams of Daddy
Coming home. We want to hold her
And tell her he will soon put his clothes
Back in the closet. But last time he came
He lined it with leaves
And told her to sleep in it.
            After a while will we all get used
            To your small daughter on a shelf?

With winter coming in
We could bring you candles by the armload.
But the light you look for
Would come in his eyes. At least we can
All build a fire so the child won’t freeze.
Clean the ash heap from your heath;
We will take it outside
And throw it at the wind.
            Whatever catches in our eyes
            Will wash with tears.

* * * * *

Judith Offer has had two daughters, five books of poetry and dozens of plays. (Eighteen of the latter, including six musicals, have been produced.)  She has read her poetry at scores of poetry venues, but is particularly delighted to have been included in the Library of Congress series and on “All Things Considered,” on NPR.  Her writing reflects her childhood in a large Catholic family—with some Jewish roots—her experience as teacher, community organizer, musician, historian, gardener, and all-purpose volunteer, and her special fascination with her roles of wife and mother.  Her most recent book of poetry, called DOUBLE CROSSING, is poems about Oakland, California, where she lives with her husband, Stuart.

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