Waking the Dead

by Dr. David Sanders

A mother who never met her newborn son.

She died in childbirth.

That woman would have been my grandmother.

I once met her husband.

He would have been my grandfather.

But he gave my father up for adoption.

To the brother of the mother who never met her newborn son.

That man would have been my great uncle.

And my grandfather.

But he died before I was born.

I am named after him.

Is it true?

Each man is a cemetery.

An actual cemetery.

In which lies all the grandmothers.

All the grandfathers.

I didn’t put those words together.

Each man is a cemetery is a quote.

It is from the series Shtisel.

A show about an Ultra-orthodox family.

A show obsessed with death.

How the dead keep living on.

In our dreams.

In our waking.

The quote is misattributed.

To Isaac Bashevis Singer.

The Nobel Laureate Yiddish writer.

A man obsessed with death.

Did I read Singer?

It is a vague memory.

Perhaps the grandfather who was not my grandfather did.

In Yiddish.

Singer is long dead.

He is buried next to his wife.

Who is buried next to her first husband.

Who is buried next to his second wife.

I googled “Singer Obsessed with Death”

Clicked on The Ship.

A short story posthumously published this year.

Singer is still telling stories from the grave.

My brother-in-law’s mother died from the virus.

One of the early fatalities of Covid-19.

She was buried in New Jersey.

This summer her body will be exhumed.

To be buried next to her husband.

A woman in search of a cemetery.

Across the sea to her earthly bed.

I am exhuming bodies.

Not of the dead but of the living.

Serendipity this week led to hearing a voice.

A man I have not thought about

Let alone seen for 30 years.

Was he still alive or had he died?

How old would he be?

He was a mentor, a friend.

A supervisor during my training as a psychologist.

I looked him up.

Not only alive but still actively working.

Same office!

The reason to be in touch?

I was referring a client to him.

I heard about his life and shared mine.

He is 10 years older than me.

I would have guessed 20.

It was a ten minute conversation.

Covered 30 years.

In ten minutes.

He reminded me of faded memories.

A forgotten life.

I was holding some of him.

He was holding some of me.

We are cemeteries for each other.

Dead memories exhumed.

Travelling with me.

To be buried again.

Dead people exhumed.

She would have been my grandmother.

He would have been my grandfather.

Never met them.

Traveling with me.

To be buried again.


Nancy · May 20, 2021 at 5:07 pm

Impactful, David.

    Lura Williams · May 20, 2021 at 10:00 pm

    That’s Me!!!! I think often of persons no longer living during any day. I never thought of it as a “cemetery.” But it is a pleasant one–and that’s nice.

Barb · May 20, 2021 at 5:14 pm

Nice David. Very deep

Nancy Ostroff · May 20, 2021 at 6:34 pm

Loved this, David. I’m forwarding to Sam.

Barbara Hamilton · May 20, 2021 at 9:21 pm

Very beautifully written. Thank you David.

Essie Perlmutter · May 21, 2021 at 10:54 pm

Very impactful. I was on edge reading your poem. Thank you, David

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