Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Here, at last, is my father...

At this moment, a man is lying in his armchair, propped up on a large pillow. He has lived, or rather, has confined himself within these walls for decades, for a reason unknown. In this stagnant place all sounds are muffled, all images erased – but for one thing: his youth. There is a vibrant longing in him for the adventures of his early days.

Was it not just yesterday when he left his home in Poland, never to see his parents again? Has he not escaped from the Nazi death camp in France, climbed across the Pyrenean Mountains, and found his way to Spain? He can still spot the snow-covered trail winding down, shining in the mist. It is fading out now, vanishing into a cloud, into fog.

No, it is not fog anymore but a storm, a raging storm at sea. There he stands, aboard the deck of a small ship, straining to see the dreamy outline of a new shore: Israel. There is a certain glint, the vivid, restless glint of the wanderer, playing in his eyes.

It is high noon, but the room is dark. The blinds are drawn. Only a thin plume of daylight reaches in somehow, and writes a bright dot against the shadows. If – like him – you waited long enough, you could actually see the dot bleeding slowly, steadily across the bare floor, rising up over the wall, becoming longer and longer still, until at long last it would fade out, like a sentence unfinished.

Dark circles can be noticed around his eyes; which suddenly brings to mind a tired animal, one that has not felt sunshine for a long time. The eyelids fall shut and at once, the glint is gone. An invisible hand is writing on the wall. He knows it in his heart. He bears it in fear and silence.

And then, trying to ignore the ticking, the loud, insistent ticking of the clock from the adjacent kitchen, you too would, perhaps, start sensing a presence. Voices would be coming from a different place, a place within. A faint footfall… A soft laughter... Who is there? He glances nervously at the entrance door. Is it locked? Can a stranger get in? Then – quite unexpectedly – the fear subsides and for the first time, gives way to something else. Something wells up in his throat. Why is the door locked? He feels a sudden urge to crawl down, get to that threshold, and cry. Mommy! Open the door! Let me in, mommy! Let me come home!

But for now, he can still hold it in. He forces himself to turn away from that door. Somehow it feels lighter in the dark. The bareness of this space, which was once adorned with rich Persian rugs, colorful oil paintings and fine furnishings, is more bearable this way. So is the weight of loneliness.

Opposite from him, playing out endlessly, unintelligibly and in quick succession on the TV screen, are strange images from unfamiliar places. Noise. He lets the images come. He lets them go. He has no will. He has no curiosity. But from time to time he stirs, despite the sharp, sudden pain in his wrist. He fumbles at the remote control, wondering why the sound is so distant, so mute. And yet – no matter how much he tries – he finds it impossible to fix that which is broken.

The shelves behind him are laden with books, three of which he has written himself in years past. Signed: Blue Wolf. Here is the poet, a man notorious for his contradictions, a man of a great passion and an equally great skill to capture it, to put it in beautiful, eloquent words in any one of ten languages. Here is the storyteller whose listeners have left him. Locked in a world of no sound, in a world of no expression, here he is: a cage within cage. This is the place where even the wolf surrenders. The fight is over. No more howling.

Here, at last, is my father.

An excerpt from Home


This story, which I had written two years before my father passed away, is now included in my poetry book, Home.

I thought it appropriate to display one of his own oil paintings. How it evolved fascinates me: He painted the slope of a mountainside, and a moon high above, then archived the painting, never to take another look at it--until, several years later, he unearthed it and asked himself: What if... What if I paint this line here (which became the nose)...

And with that question in mind, the painting became what it was meant to be: A Wandering Jew, with the moonlight that accompanies the life of a nomad.

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Home
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"There are vignettes, streams of poetry, and scenes of such exquisite depth and beauty that I found myself taken aback at the skill of the writing and the power it had to touch my heart."

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