Life Harvester 35: May Her Memory Be A Blessing / זיכרונה לברכה / Zikhrona Livrakha, Poems About Grief
Life Harvester is written by Colin Hagendorf. This is the email version of a print publication available for low-cost individual subscription via Paypal or on Patreon. Life Harvester subscriptions are free to prisoners. If you know an incarcerated person who would like to receive a newsletter every month, get in touch with me directly and I’ll take care of it.
editors note: It’s April. I’m slowly clawing my way back to life from a winter that was more difficult than I realized at the time—a true Spring Thaw. This issue was prepared for print in November and has simply been sitting as I’ve remained seemingly paralyzed. Thank you for bearing with me.
MAY HER MEMORY BE A BLESSING / זיכרונה לברכה / ZIKHRONA LIVRAKHA
There’s a yiddish phrase of condolence for the deceased, זיכרונה לברכה or zikhronah livrakha phonetically, which translates “may her memory be a blessing.” It’s something I’ve said for years, since the first time I heard it, to friends or loved ones suffering a loss. I love what it offers.
And yet despite saying it dozens of times at least, I've never taken it to heart. For years, whenever I think of certain dead friends, I’ve felt an overwhelming sense of guilt–that I hadn't done enough to help them get clean or let them know they were loved or whatever that could’ve prevented their untimely deaths; that I’m alive at all and they’re not and I’m squandering the life I’m lucky enough to have.
The other day I realized something: If I think about Barker or Jamie and I'm wracked with guilt, that's not letting their memories be a blessing. A blessing brings joy. A blessing brings peace. When I think of my dead friends and primarily feel pain, what I'm doing is making their memory a curse.
Rest in peace Lara, Lance, Gam, Marie, and everyone I didn’t know who died this month. Love to everyone sitting with this kind of sadness for the first time from those of us who have been holding it for far too long.
Happy birthday Hannah Höch, Neil Young, and Anna Nicole Smith.
POEMS ABOUT GRIEF
A friend to the Harv who asked to remain anonymous compiled this assortment of mourning poems, And it seems like this month is the right time to share them all in one place.
Why God Did What He Did
God hates you
which is why he created the world
and put you in it
and gave you the power to realize
that you’re here
for a while
and then poof
and while you’re here
you come to see
that the world too will be destroyed
by a fiery bowling ball
ten thousand times the size of the earth,
hurtling through space
at this very moment
so that nothing absolutely nothing
because that’s what God wants
and he wants you to know it
because he really hates you
and he wants you to know that too
When they turn the sun
on again I’ll plant children
under it, I’ll light up my soul
with a match and let it sing, I’ll
take my mother and soap her up, I’ll
take my bones and polish them, I’llpay all my neighbors’ bad debts, I’ll
write a poem called Yellow and put
my lips down to drink it up, I’ll
feed myself spoonfuls of heat and
everyone will be home playing with
their wings and the planet will
shudder with all those smiles and
there will be no poison anywhere, no plague
in the sky and there will be a mother-broth
for all of the people and we will
never die, not one of us, we’ll go on
The Way To Keep Going In Antarctica
Be strong Bernadette
Nobody will ever know
I came here for a reason
Perhaps there is a life here
Of not being afraid of your own heart beating
Do not be afraid of your own heart beating
Look at very small things with your eyes & stay warm
Nothing outside can cure you but everything’s outside
There is great shame for the world in knowing
You may have gone this far
Perhaps this is why you love the presence of other people so much
Perhaps this is why you wait so impatiently
You have nothing more to teach
Until there is no more panic at the knowledge of your own real existence
& then only special childish laughter will be shown
& no more lies no more
Not to find you no
More coming back & more returning
Small things & not my own debris
Something to fight against
& we are all very fluent about ourselves
Our own ideas of food, a Wild sauce
There’s not much point in its being over: but we do not speak them:
I had written: “the man who sewed his soles back on his feet”
And then I panicked most at the sound of what the wind could do to me if I crawled back to the house, two feet give no position, if the branches cracked over my head & their threatening me, if I covered my face with beer & sweated til you returned
If I suffered what else could I do
Mediations in an Emergency
I wake up & it breaks my heart. I draw the blinds & the thrill of rain breaks my heart. I got outside. I ride the train, walk among the buildings, men in Monday suits. The flight of doves, the city of tents beneath the underpass, the huddled mass, old women hawking roses, & children all of them, break my heart. There’s a dream I have in which I love the world. I run from end to end like fingers through her hair. There are no borders, only wind. Like you, I was born. Like you, I was raised in the institution of dreaming. Hand on my heart. Hand on my stupid heart.
To the Young Who Want to Die
Sit down. Inhale. Exhale.
The gun will wait. The lake will wait.
The tall gall in the small seductive vial
will wait will wait:
will wait a week: will wait through April.
You do not have to die this certain day.
Death will abide, will pamper your postponement.
I assure you, death will wait. Death has
a lot of time. Death can
attend to you tomorrow. Or next week. Death is
just down the street; is most obliging neighbor;
can meet you any moment.
You need not die today.
Stay here – through pout or pain or peskyness.
Stay here. See what the news is going to be tomorrow.
Graves grow no green that you can use.
Remember, green’s your color. You are Spring.
I thought that you were an anchor in the drift of the world;
but no: there isn’t an anchor anywhere.
There isn’t an anchor in the drift of the world. Oh no.
I thought you were. Oh no. The drift of the world.
All my life,
since I was ten,
I’ve been waiting
to be in
this hell here
all I’ve ever
The calendar is full, future
The cable hums the folk song
from no country.
Falling snow on the lead-still
wrestle on the dock.
In the middle or life it happens
that death comes
and takes your measurements.
is forgotten and life goes on. But
the suit is
sewn in the silence.
I am a good man.
The amount of fear
I am ok with
I love many people
who don’t love me.
I don’t actually know
if that is true.
This is love.
It is a mass of ice
Melting, I can’t hold
it and I have nowhere
to put it down.
WHAT RESEMBLES THE GRAVE BUT ISN’T
Always falling into a hole, then saying “ok, this is not your grave, get out of this hole,” getting out of the hole which is not the grave, falling into a hole again, saying “ok, this is also not your grave, get out of this hole,” getting out of that hole, falling into another one; sometimes falling into a hole within a hole, or many holes within holes, getting out of them one after the other, then falling again, saying “this is not your grave, get out of the hole”; sometimes being pushed, saying “you can not push me into this hole, it is not my grave,” and getting out defiantly, then falling into a hole again without any pushing; sometimes falling into a set of holes whose structures are predictable, ideological, and long dug, often falling into this set of structural and impersonal holes; sometimes falling into holes with other people, with other people, saying “this is not our mass grave, get out of this hole,” all together getting out of the hole together, hands and legs and arms and human ladders of each other to get out of the hole that is not the mass grave but that will only be gotten out of together; sometimes the willful-falling into a hole which is not the grave because it is easier than not falling into a hole really, but then once in it, realizing it is not the grave, getting out of the hole eventually; sometimes falling into a hole and languishing there for days, weeks, months, years, because while not the grave very difficult, still, to climb out of and you know after this hole there’s just another and another; sometimes surveying the landscape of holes and wishing for a high quality final hole; sometimes thinking of who has fallen into holes which are not graves but might be better if they were; sometimes too ardently contemplating the final hole while trying to avoid the provisional ones; sometimes dutifully falling and getting out, with perfect fortitude, saying “look at the skill and spirit with which I rise from that which resembles the grave but isn’t!”