Generations 2: “My Father’s Big Fat Jewish Funeral”

Today when I tell people the story
they do not believe me, so I let myself suppose
uniqueness among the pedestrian and insane,
that my family had the gilded qualities
found in the wholly sociopathic who used
religion, politics, any blunt instrument at hand
as a weapon.

The fact is that my father, pace (pace, mio Dio!) his
protestations to the contrary, was a Jewboy,
gift of Attorney Street and Brooklyn to the world
of women and clothes he could afford
only if he took them off frequently.
Jew was my mother, and Jew was I, am I yet
despite my best efforts to change the inscape.

So when my father died while on the road to ruin,
his funeral was planned not by my sock-in-the-mouth
puppet mother but by her brother-in-law
the Reform dentist, first and only to that time
who’d gone to college and therefore could pronounce
on anything.  In other words, a thoroughgoing prick.

And so my father’s body, after its one day transport
back from the final bed-down in Camden, Maine, reposed in
Hirsch’s Funeral Home on Jerome Avenue,
the West Bronx, where Jewish funeral legalisms
generally (but not always) are honored.  And so
my last memory of my father is of a man in
an open casket wearing a tallis he probably
could not have put on unless he were recumbent,

an open casket that violated with The Finger everything
in Jewish law or at least tradition,
laid out with everything but a Missal and Rosary beads,
’til the the rabbi showed up and hit the roof, someone
in the room with some integrity to the Letter since
the Spirit hadn’t bothered to show up,
and he yelled to screw down that lid or else
he would not do my father’s funeral.

And that I saw, that that I still recall, eleh ezkerah:
my father at a rest I never saw in his lifetime,
relaxed into the arms of what he’d courted
from the first day he knew he could court anything.
It eluded him in the battle already ended in France,
it fled him in the fur markets, it laughed at him in two marriages,
it mocked him through the worthlessness of the child
(or is that children?) he fathered, but here, here,
he was brought to ground, enveloped in silk and wood,
kissed goodbye when he could have cared less.

September 2007

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