It's just poetry, it won't bite

My Grandpa’s Moans

12.08.18 Posted in today's words by

Simon Fleischer’s most recent poem to appear here was “Sitting Alone in the Shul at Night” (December 2017).

My Grandpa’s Moans
By Simon Fleischer

Whereas at forty-five waking
in the middle of the night is commonplace,

at eight or ten the staccato of
his moaning slumber-thump was unusual,

so my upright jerk was followed
by a long night of wondering and worrying—

Specifically, imagining whether
that which roused my grandpa would return,

slipping past barbed wire dreams
into the easy suburban shtetl where I lay.

At the sound of his moaning,
I rushed into the hallway and saw
the easy sweep of my mother’s
white night gown brush the stairs
as she flew to rescue my grandfather
from the boots marching through his dreams.

These careless moans.
They should have known
that seeds sprout dreams.

Still wide awake at forty-five,
tick-tock tyranny of open eyes:
our grandpa’s murdered sleep.

A tear in time—
yesterday comes slipping through,

and suddenly I knew—
the night is long and no one’s safe.

I remember being the only one,
my two brothers sleeping deep,
unwoken by our grandpa’s moans.
Looking back, it seems unlikely
that only I awoke that night.
But years later it’s just me.
The mind plays tricks.

Then suddenly thirteen, one winter afternoon,
riding the elevator in the Hebrew Home,
my grandpa burst into his cantorial boom,
a rendition of the Star Spangled Banner
that shook the walls of memory itself.
Down we tumbled into the moaning night,
and when the doors slid open his voice
filled the halls, slipped linoleum floors,
white walls, through open doors into
shuffling rooms with old robes and bedpans.

Then eight or ten again, gripping mother’s hand,
not right or left but straight ahead I stared,
prepared to lie awake throughout the night,
spared the sight of someone else’s memory—
but still he shared it with me, time forever
bold enough to break itself and murder sleep.

No bleach can wash the piss of memory,
the metal leather tang, the stink that lingers.
Grandpa’s barking dreams into the darkness crept.
At forty-five we lie awake where once we slept.

2 Responses to “My Grandpa’s Moans”

  1. Bobbie Troy says:

    Very moving, Simon.

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