Thursday, November 8, 2012

A Thin Border to Hold Your Sanity

I dreamt a dream that I'm still a child,
Here's home.
In a minute the door will open
Letting in my parents, my sister.
I'm foolishly beguiled!
They were all swept off by a gust, into the wild
I'm alone
No longer a child.

When my father wrote these words, which to me are profoundly heart wrenching, he still knew the difference between dream and reality. The door, he realized, would never open, and it remains there as a poetic symbol of hope, of yearning for something that can never happen, not only because of his advanced age--but also because his parents and his sister perished during the holocaust. 
But during the last year of his life, that border between what is real and what is a dream, a poetic symbol, became thinner and thinner, and thus more illusive to him. He would crouch by that door, banging his fist upon it and begging his mommy to open that door. Then, as a mercy to his sanity, he passed away at the age of ninety four.

This was, and still is, quite painful to me. Having witnessed it I wrote several pieces--some poems, some short stories--about the thinning of the border in his mind. These pieces are all inspired by my vision of his life, as I saw it in retrospect when I came to mourn for him. This vision also inspired my oil painting which became the cover of the book, Home. Here is a detail of it, showing the door and his armchair, ascending in the air above the turmoil, the grief...

So here is an excerpt from one of the poems in Home, which highlights the vision of the door as a thinning border:

That door sealed him off, away from all danger
Except from the depth of the danger within
No one could intrude here, except for the stranger
Who would carry him off to where his end would begin—

The poet, who’d mourned the loss of his mother 
Would then, somehow, be reduced to a child 
He would crouch at the threshold, and call, call, call, call her 
Knock, knock, knock at the door; no more held back, but wild

And here, another excerpt, this time from a short story about my father:

"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, 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."

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  1. Uvi, you have moved me to tears. No doubt your father would be so very proud of the way you portray his life, so honestly, and beautifully. You hold nothing back, and let your feelings and interpretations flow as wine. Awe inspiring!

    1. Aw... Thank you so very much Lisa. The first time I read his latest work, it was through a film of tears that I tried to see it..