Time

by Rachel Reed

I. Jews don’t hold open caskets
but for the back of the funeral home, family only.
So much of our sorrow is in history books,
we afford ourselves this small luxury of private mourning.
Everyone huddled in turns. I stayed dry until mine.
They got your lipstick right.

II. It had all been a secret.
You did not want messy farewells,
had not wanted your flawless image shattered,
a broken icicle laying like glass on the hard concrete.
My father promised a good-bye
within the month,
in exchange for the assurance I would not tell my sister.
By morning, everything had changed.

III. “You look so much like her,” they say.
“I see so much of her in you.”
“She lives on in your face.”
These words may hold truth in the abstract,
but I do not see any of your beauty or grace
when I look in the mirror.
I see someone who looks too Jewish,
nose too large,
eyes too dark,
brows too thick.
I see awkwardness, a face giving away all emotion.
You could hold a stoic pose for hours.
You, despite your faults, were perfect.

IV. Chanukah once brought to mind the gentle heat
           of candles,
           of latkes hot off the pan,
           of giving and receiving,
           of a family chanting ancient words together,
           of almost reaching a new year while having just celebrated another.
Now, I remember it only as the last time we saw each other.

V. In six weeks,
it will be five years
                sixty months
                half a decade
to the morning.
Nearly two thousand days gone by,
millions of moments blown by with the leaves.
I have not visited in several years,
not since the unveiling of your headstone, when I set a stone upon your grave as per tradition.
Still, I think of you every day.
How wonderful you must look now, cloaked in the golden hues of autumn.
How warm you must feel.