Irving Benig

Issue #
September 28, 2015

Poem for Michael Katz

When that day arrives, father, Phil,
unknown to us, dining as we are
at the high table, the candles lit, the rain
and the wind at the glass deck door,

the power lines down, the sagging trees
sweeping the heavy air like those exhausted dead—
when that day arrives, unknown, then known,
you, who died so long ago, and Michael Katz,

who died today, this day, and we waiting to die,
who dine at this table in the light of two lit candles–
What is it I want to offer, Michael Katz?
That we will meet again? The song of a mystery train?

You are ashes now (ashes! ashes!) and Phil, my father,
is bone and dust and wormwood beneath a leafy roof.
You are this urn on this high mantle, a child’s toy,
in the Connecticut underbrush, and Phil, my father,

sleeps deep beneath Sinai and Roosevelt
in Elmont, Long Island, where the Jewish ghosts
come out at night and convene like old friends,
reintroduce themselves, one to one to one.

When that day arrives, and when I know it,
you, father, Phil, and you, Michael Katz,
and those others, those closeted strangers,
who will gather with me here in New York,

or elsewhere, along with the dead in England,
the suicides in France and the famished in Africa
–we will arrive together on that windswept day,
brothers and sisters, hand-in-hand like school children,

on that day, to a final stop, or not a final stop.
You already know that, Michael Katz. Father, Phil.
You know we should remain at the high table,
the candles lit, the rain and wind at the glass deck door,
and pass the mustard, the bread, the wine, and laugh.

Originally published in The Naugatuck River Review, Issue 6, Summer 2011.

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