My Mother's Funeral
The rabbi doesn't say she was sly and peevish, fragile and voracious, disheveled, voiceless and useless, at the end of her very long rope. He never sat beside her like a statue while radio voices called to her from God. He doesn't say how she mamboed with her broom, staggered, swayed, and sighed afternoons, till we came from school to feed her. She never frightened him, or bent to kiss him, sponged him with a fever, never held his hand, bone-white, bolted doors and shut the blinds. She never sent roaches in a letter, he never saw her fall down stairs, dead sober. He never watched her sweep and murmur, he never saw spider webs she read as signs her life was over, long before her frightened husband left, long before they dropped her in a box, before her children turned shyly from each other, since they never learned to pray. If I must think of her, if I can spare her moment on the earth, I'll say she was one of God's small sculptures, polished to a glaze, one the wind blew off a shelf.
"My Mother's Funeral," from Grazing, published by the University of Illinois Press, 1998. Used by permission of the author. All rights reserved.