When my Father was moving

from being to being nothing

I was about to go for a bike ride.


His right hand rose up

from under the blue blanket

as he patted the bed for me to sit.


I sat and stroked his face

so thin and unshaven it appeared

slender as the Flatiron building.




In summer, we could sit in the yard for hours

eating cherries, throwing the pits

the dog would chase.

We’re planting cherry trees he’d say.


In winter, we raced through bowls of green pistachios

seeing who could crack them faster.

We’d set aside the sealed ones, the ones

that stubbornly refused to be opened,

the ones with no crack.


Daddy said they have secrets

they can’t bear to share with us yet.

He poured the uncracked nuts

into a ceramic bowl.


He never disturbed the bowl

but sometimes he would lift it

as though it were a seashell.

He would nod his head.

He was a quiet man.




You will listen to your Father’s slow breath,

place ice chips on his cracked lips.

You will listen to the final rattle

and remember a baby’s noisemaker, Daddy’s keys.




Any stillness I possess belongs

in a yard

where another family lives

in the midst of cherry trees

they cannot see.

Lisa Grunberger, is author of Yiddish Yoga: Ruthie’s Adventures in Love, Loss and the Lotus Position and Born Knowing.  Op-ed columnist Nicholas Kristof selected her poem  “The Story of the Letter J” in his NYT column in 2017.  Her play, Almost Pregnant, about infertility, adoption and motherhood, premiered in Philadelphia.  She is Associate Professor in English at Temple University and Arts and Culture Editor at The Philadelphia Jewish Voice.