I wrote the poem, Shloshim, seven years ago. It was in response to yet another senseless, white supremacist fueled, racist massacre. Frighteningly, I don't precisely remember *which* one it was that drove me to write this.
And now there are still more mourners for lives obliterated by hate.
I wish I had something comforting to say. Perhaps violence has always been the background noise of our society. Which is a terrifying reality to confront.
How long must I count shloshim? I buried
my father twenty-one days ago. In a week
I would have unpinned the torn, black ribbon
for one final time. But every day, the clock
begins anew. Fresh grief winds up
the old. Nine new names to stand for
and recite kaddish. Each one, someone's
beloved. The rituals of loss bring no rest
to the dead. The living bring casseroles, prayers,
and pie to the funeral table. I mean no disrespect--
not to the nine lost to hatred, not to their families,
joined in their death. I don't know what else
to do so I recite Hebrew words I barely read,
transliterated into helpful English. They bring me
a small comfort as I look around at the other
congregants, men and women gathered
here on an early Friday morning so I can publicly
mourn my father. A minyan. One mourner and nine
others. One life for each of the lost. Our little
chapel has no locked doors. Evil could sit here
invisible among us, too, leaving the stricken
survivors to start the count again.
--LJ Cohen, June 20, 2015