Mourner’s Kaddish + The Last Seder – Valerie Bacharach

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Mourner’s Kaddish

When I became a B’at Mitzvah,
I learned the Mourner’s Kaddish.
Just one of many prayers I tucked

away in a drawer.
I could chant the Hebrew fluently,
with no idea of what it meant.

No words of mourning or death,
sorrow or grief,
only words that blessed and sanctified

God’s name, praised
God, even after loss.
I pulled that prayer from its drawer

after you died. Cradled it in my
arms, swayed in the rhythm
of motherhood, let Hebrew

words slip from my lips, closed
my eyes, tried to pray you
back to life.

The Last Seder

I should be setting my table, taking my Seder plate from its drawer,
placing an egg, parsley, bitter herbs, charoset,

and a lamb shank in the indentations.
I should be putting three pieces of matzah on a plate, the middle

matzah broken in half, one half, the afikomen, hidden,
found and bartered back by the children.

Your first night home from rehab:

I’m still going to drink wine. I don’t need to go to meetings.
I’m fine.

I should be making matzah ball soup,
roasting a leg of lamb, grating horseradish,

putting a Haggadah at every chair, opened
to begin the ancient service.

I should be pouring wine into its special cup, placing it
on the table to await the visit of the prophet Elijah.

Alcohol was not your drug of choice.
You had a love affair with anything you could crush and inhale.

We had our Seder that night. As the youngest person
at the table, you read the first of the four questions:

Why is this night different from all other nights?

Because on that night, all of us teetered on the sharp
edge of pain, tilting slowly toward its open mouth.

Valerie Bacharach has participated in Madwomen in the Attic Poetry workshops sponsored by Carlow University. Two of her poems will be published in their anthology “Voices from the Attic” in the fall of 2014.

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