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
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.