A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
October 30, 2018, three of eleven killed at The Tree of Life Synagogue were buried.One of the three was husband to my co-worker and friend.
Eleven lives taken at The Tree of Life – hours later and miles away, our writing workshop canceled, our chance for defiance however small gone. I waited at the funeral with hundreds to pass security, newsboys on the street asking with their cameras, Who is afraid? I watched her halting walk to his grave, reluctant like a child. I followed like a child with a shovelful of earth to cover him. I listened to the learned seeking meaning, hundreds crowded into the Beth Shalom basement, police in armor at the entrance. When the doors locked behind us, I noticed the dampness and a draft on my bare neck. Today was eleven months, hundreds standing witness in the warmth beneath the trees. I still live so I was there. I wonder though would we cancel our workshop for a drive-by at a playground?
The poem commemorates the Tree of Life murders on October 27, 2018. The title refers to the Jewish custom of the ceremonial uncovering of the gravestone 11 months after a loved one has died. Copyright 2020 Donald Krieger. An earlier version of this poem appeared in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette October 13, 2019.