Linda Hepner

Veteran Poet - 1,186 Points (London)

Grandparent, An Email - Poem by Linda Hepner

My dear,
You must forgive… I’m sorry… you will understand
I’ve been so busy (weeks on roller skates)
and not a moment to reply to you
although you wrote so nicely, tenderly,
with insight on my poem that fulfilled my day,
which I gave birth to and I sent to you
hoping for a comment, then
moved me again by what you wrote to me, replying
then and there,
you doing as I would-be-done-by, thanks
so very much although to tell the truth
I have forgotten what exactly you
wrote back – enough to make me put your note
aside, and save for days until I’d have the time
to think, compose some complete sentences
and do you honor. Not like myself
on some occasions with another friend
who satellite each other saying, “Thanks
so very much although to tell the truth
I am on roller skates and promise I shall write you soon
in kind and do you honor, bye for now,
and love.”

But let
me tell you why I’ve left you in the lurch –
How could you know? We only speak on screen,
that is by email, and our poet minds
met over babies we had wrought, I mean our verse,
the poems we produced, comparing lines,
admiring eyes and nose and pouting lips,
taking to heart the little unformed smiles
and adding comments by the way of coos,
while taking care not to offend because
each baby, Aesop said, is beautiful
to mother, even if it be
a writhing mass of burps, but I must say
this baby – not my own – my son’s –
came at a time when I was sick at home
but suddenly recovered when the call
came through: Mum, come, come now!
And so I drove for hours to their house
and slept there in the little trundle bed
just to be near in case they had to leave
the other children in the dead of night,
as taking them all bundled in the car
to hospital where Dad would be with Mom
watching the birth of some bad baby born
while leaving them alone with nurses, sobs and fear,
would not be on the cards, so I
was summoned in excitement, but for days
we roller skated through the busy hours
until the waters flowed and from them life,
and in the evening, armed with camera,
then joined by husband, parents, kids,
we stood around admiring the new son,
careful to coo and not once criticize
the squishy nose, the little elf-like ears,
but this time, like a miracle or like
one of your poems, dear, there was no need to lie
or I should say to hide:
came instant love and adoration like
Mantegna, Titian, Rubens, Cassatt, kings
with offerings of spice and gold and myrrh –
suppress the myrrh! – enhance the colors, sounds,
the memories of other births, the pain
of losses, sadness, unexpected twists
to poems of nine stanzas, and the joy
suffusing all our brains and hands and hearts
as one round family;
but then, as if the birth were not enough
our Jewish lives took over, like a crown,
imprimatur: this child who bears the name
of bible brother, father of my youth and blessed,
has entered in to God’s great Covenant, and
we’ve now inscribed
his foreskin, as did Moses with his knife
the second time around, although it was
his wife who showed him first
that blades are used for foreskins before laws –
this baby will not need those laws, he’ll know
that goodness, wisdom, innocence and love
are all ye know or need to know
which should here end my ode.

But one more thing – no, two –
our family flew in from far and wide,
our home was filled with children and I cooked
the copious dishes that they used to love
and still expect when they come home to Mum
and Dad and also I forgot to say
it was a week of birthdays, in decades,
for grandsons, daughters and threescore and ten
for me, yours truly; all I wanted was
not parties, phone calls, gifts; just family
to make this week the culmination of
the heart that bursting with the love that… can’t explain!
except in poetry, or music maybe, or in gardens full
of daffodils and freesias, roses, grass
that spreads its roots beneath the ground
and also cherry blossoms, but hunamis are
to be suppressed, like myrrh, or laws
thrown from the mountain, and there’s one more thing
dear friend: I understand, I do,
that though you glow, you all do, when I tell
you my sweet news, a grandchild’s birth
is of no interest whatsoever to you, taking care
not to offend, by smiling at me, yet
I had to tell you, spread the good news round,
and may the Lord shine on your face,

M”Sh of Parsha Ki Tisa

Some explanations: Baby born 3.3.09, Irvine, California. A week later on Purim he was named at his brith, or ritual circumcision, with the name Avishai, the brother in the bible of Yoav, with the prayer that he will be Yoav’s good brother, and the second name Yosef, after my father Joseph, who loved our children with all his heart.
Different spelling of Mom and Mum: depends on your nationality!
Roller skates: often said by the Director of Events at the Hershey Community Center where Gershon and I put on concerts. Became a family joke.
Abundant flowers in early March: we live in Southern California.
Aesop; Rabbi Hillel’s advice, Do not do unto others… misquoted in The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley; hunami; myrrh; Keats Ode to A Grecian Urn – a partial quote; Tzippora’s circumcision of Moses’ son, the Tablets of the Law which were written by God, smashed but then reinscribed by Moses’ own hand the second time, are all obvious, as is the final, shortened line, the most wonderful blessing in the Jewish world.

Comments about Grandparent, An Email by Linda Hepner

  • (3/30/2009 9:20:00 AM)

    Hi Linda
    An epic. I wanted to do it justice, so have read it a few times. I like the way the 'actual intertwines with the hypothetical within the conept of an email. Much enjoyed, as I do all of your poetry. I'm more active on the children circuit than we ever where when we had the kids at home. Always something on the horizon. where wehen we were. Much congratulation

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Poem Submitted: Sunday, March 15, 2009

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