For my mom
Latke grease and shrinking blue candles —
The nostalgia invisible, because you still haven’t told us.
This year my gift to you is being an ass, for I am
The Son who Needles. But my latest taunt
Lights new flames of hurt in your eyes, and I know immediately
That something is different now:
You say, You will miss me when I’m gone.
You mean, I am sick, and you have taken me for granted your whole life.
Your voice is hot with oil and the dark wisdom of elders.
I remember that the miracle of Chanukah is a children’s story.
You call me on a Thursday to tell me
You were diagnosed with leukemia in October.
I put on my medical student cap and ask about
Biomarkers. Every year on Yom Kippur
I try to remember the sins I’ve committed.
But this year, beneath the cleansing saltwater of my tears,
I finally remember all of the small, terrible things I’ve done to you.
We haven’t seen you since you told us, and
We haven’t had a family Seder since we left for college;
But this year we brothers conspire with
Kind intent at last. So when you walk into The Den
To find us all Home, unannounced, and when you finally
Let the sobs from which you’d always protected us
Buckle like crashing waves from your strong, tired face, I remember
The fierce, imperfect blood that once filled your ancestors in Egypt,
And now fills you, and even your children; and I remember
The Red Sea you held open for us
Just long enough.
Poetry Thursdays is an initiative that highlights poems by medical students and physicians. If you are interested in contributing or would like to learn more, please contact our editors.