Elegy for Lillian

Arif Qazi | cargocollective.com/arifqazi

Arif Qazi | cargocollective.com/arifqazi

Sister Poem

My sister was a Unitarian,

she loved life, the God-given gift of the world.

She did not need Paradise to make her a Christian,

thought all religions that promised Paradise

offered a business relationship with a jealous God.

She made a funny face at the mention of early martyrs

who preferred to be fresh meat for lions

to living in the world, likely as slaves,

rather than praying for show to the Gods

Trajan or Emperor Augustus.

Her Lord preferred His followers deny Him

rather than sacrifice their lives,

He wanted the living to live, love strangers,

their neighbors, the Beatitudes.

She certainly thought it wise to hide your Judaism

from the public fires of the Inquisition;

she damned the excommunicators of Spinoza,

believed in doing what you could honorably do

to stay out of cattle cars.

When I was a small child

I thought my sister Lilly

was mysteriously related to waterlilies,

daylilies, lilies of the valley.

Imitating her handwriting, I made my first e and l.

I am ashamed, when I was seven, she was four years older,

I wrestled her to the ground to show I was stronger,

proof the state is stronger than language.

Our dog took her side, barked “get off her.”

It was a rare day I did not ask, “Lilly read me a story.”

When I stood one foot three inches taller,

she gave me her violin. When all I could play was “Long, Long Ago,”

she taught me Mozart and Bach,

that all things in the universe showed the hand of God.

Years passed. I thought prosody survives history.

She read Rimbaud to me in French and English,

and Lorca, whose photo I hung next to my bed.

My sister wrote to me, “please speak at my funeral.”

Not long after, I said, “To death there is no consolation . . . .”

I read most of the lines I just wrote.

I insisted the chapel doors and windows were open

to a congregation of birds and insects. Loners

swooped in and out from noon to sunset.

Not a drop of excrement on the mosaic floor.

A hawk dropped a live mouse that prayed to live

on her coffin. She would have liked that.

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Source Citation

Tikkun 2016 Volume 31, Number 4: 70-71


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