"What I Learned So Far"
When Ellen says my poems these days seem one seamless Kaddish,
I hear she understands the six months
before my father died were raw keen k’riah.
How June’s visit home I see his death
forming in the air he breathes.
Why every evening I call him
until there’s nothing left to say,
until all that remains—the sheer
pleasure of his company.
Elul. He weakens before my eyes,
no shofar blast required.
Tishri. We daven
repetitions to dwell in meaning: who shall live
and who shall die, who in the fullness of years
We cross into wilderness, a new year,
pillar of fire before us, the old, the weak, the infirm
to the rear, Amalek plucking them one death
at a time.
Reservations for December.
My father says, “Come right now.” and I do.
A way is made.
Gathered to his people,
a story old as time.
"What I Learned So Far (5)"
Umbra and penumbra,
perigee, when to plant a tree,
Aldebaran . . . Castor, Pollux
. . . Capella
in other words, the winter hexagon,
one of those fabrications
for plumbing the fathoms of night.
Specialized bodies of knowledge,
require their own language,
grief’s aleph bet,
the jargon of mourning,
a grammar of loss and longing
in the context of love v’kavanah.
I learned palimpsest is richer
than irony to convey shades
k’riah or any visible sign
of mourning are not worn on Sabbath,
pentimento may explain
faces of people “not there,”
zachor—a life’s work.
Praise for Maxine Silverman
“Maxine Silverman has a terrific ear for our language… Her mostly longish lines are lush and musical… One does not make that kind of music by accident. Even her syntax is musical (as it should be!). Read her poems, reread them out loud!”
— Thomas Lux
“Her rare combination of subtlety and gusto of description make each poem a guided meditation into the splendor of the lived life.”
— Molly Peacock
Praise for Earlier Works
“Maxine Silverman writes, ‘how it begins, evil / pedestrian / as a morning walk.” While Palimpsest is about life’s unfairness, it is ultimately about life’s lovely rituals, its history braided out of pain and hope, its relationships. While certainly all of our lives could have gone a different way, Silverman underscores … the seeming inevitability of the one we have lived, its symbolic resonance, its importance all along the generational path. For those who are interested in behaving tenderly to the human family and transcending life’s hardships, it is a must-read.”
— Kim Bridgford
“Families, nature, the body, artists as different as Romare Bearden and Irina Ratushinskaya: in the poems of Palimpsest, Maxine Silverman`s imagination draws these diverse strands into a dense matrix of kinship. Remembered scenes and familiar actions are seen anew, in the insistent glow of “a thousand most tender metrics” (“La Natividad.”). The fleeting is made permanent, newly named with “some sound that fills the clearing with light” (“Daybreak, the Doe, the Trees”). These are visionary poems of heart but also of spirit. Each is a reckoning with wonders concealed in plain view, and Silverman is a poet assured in her calling, who knows (as she says in “Morning, Possum”) that “Today,/ …was given me for this and no more….”