Long Life – Amanda Hammar

Long life my dear
I wish you a long life

Familiar phrases spoken by Jews
in cemeteries across centuries
whispered in wistful tones
into the ears of the bereaved

It always seemed an odd offering:
‘a long life’ – ironic solace
as if mocking the dead
or those left behind
with so many years ahead
to bear the absence

Unaware of the incompleteness
or true tenderness buried
in those abbreviated words

Until you sat beside me
three days after my mother’s death
and asked gently if I was aware
of the remaining fragments
of that delicate prayer

I waited    breath withheld
the air still as Life’s end
as your unanticipated gift
hovered between us

I wish you a long life
in which to remember your beloved


Amanda Hammar is a Jewish Zimbabwean, based in Scandinavia. She is Professor of African Studies at the University of Copenhagen and among other things, researches on such themes as displacement, belonging, identity and citizenship within and beyond Africa. At the same time, poetry runs as a continuous and necessary thread through the many lives she has lived in many places.

2 thoughts on “Long Life – Amanda Hammar

  1. ajwal328

    Better to offer the wish, the gift, in its entirety. Though at such times,we often speak to the bereaved in shorthand, as if it’s their role, not ours, to fill in what’s missing.


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