The Arty Semite

POEM: 'Assimilation'

By Joy Ladin

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For Irving Ladin, died October 2007


It’s different
in the house of death.
There’s family here too

but no one crowds around the bed.
They hang back in the shadows
waiting for you to come to them.

The mother and father you left
marinating in their accents
whisper their Russian version

of the local dialect.
You can’t quite hear them
but completely understand.

Your mother seems younger
the wisp of a girl
whose waist was as thin as the rail of a ship

then thicker the woman
you knew better than to contradict
then too frail to stand.

She isn’t angry now.
Merely curious.
You must be changing to her too

swelling and shrinking
through the boys and men
she knew you as.

Your father is looking down
embarrassed or disappointed
to find you here on the shore of death

like a message in a bottle he sent
washed up decades later
at his feet

unread.


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