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.