I look at the photo, me holding my granddaughter. Between us we are 57 years old, she has just celebrated her first birthday. In the photograph we are both laughing hysterically, in the photo we are both young children.
For on this day there is no peace, for on this day some are laid to rest, for on this day others shed endless tears, for on this day many are wringing hands, for on this day many offer hollow words, for on this day they know they should act for on this day they know they will not, for on this day we think about tomorrow, for on this day we think of those without tomorrows, for on this day the sun did rise, for on this day the earth did rotate, for on this day God was elsewhere, for on this day we were all too human.
In memory of the lives lost and changed forever at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
We were the crown princes, then, with an occasional princess, though that was more to maintain the peace. Our kingdom was a square block, and we dominion over all of our territory save the two minefields, well-marked, kept by the Strauss and Herlihy fiefdoms, who refused to pay homage to us, denied us our just due, and suffered such consequences as we could muster in the dark of a late October night. We four, Larry, Buddy, Sheldon and I roamed our kingdom, and one day, drunk with power and Nehi, scaled the border masquerading as a fence and entered the neighboring kingdom, cavorting until its army of one chased us away with a shout, “It’s a private school and you don’t belong here,” before hobbling back into the building he was far too black to enter save in uniform. We are old now, have long since abdicated our thrones and struggle only to retain our memories.
You may seek to follow the path of the dove, for a fool knows many roads. You may wrap yourself in fine linen, an infant wears only his skin and knows this moment is already gone.
Think long before you speak of how to walk along the path, of where it leads. The baby says nothing, will not speak of where he has been, where he is going, for to him there is only here, and silence is descriptive enough.
My grandmother lapsed into Yiddish only on special occasions “where other words won’t fit” she said, where there is no English to describe the indescribable, blessed be He, but we knew that it was merely a convenient way to keep us out of the conversation, while they clucked. Mah Johng is a game that can only be played in Yiddish, she said, to hell with thousands of years of Chinese history.
She remembers the Golem she met him once on Fourteenth Street when she still had the liquor store. She thought it strange that he wanted gin and not Slivovitz but Golem can be strange under the right circumstances, and he did speak Yiddish.
Outside Itaewon she leans perpetually forward as though straining against the gales of life. Her cane beats a tattoo on the pavement, as she drives her bent frame to the bus. Nearing the door a young man bustles by, receiving her cane across his shin for his indiscretion.
Assuming her seat, as though a throne, she leans her scepter between her knees, and receives the supplication of the young man who approaches with a limp to honor his elders and seek absolution from a momentary lapse. The old man, in hanbok, smiles, the bus begins its imperceptible crawl toward the Han, a small raft lost in the rush hour sea.