'THIS IS WHAT WE WERE'

In the Cedar Park Cemetery, in Westwood,
      New Jersey, the Lower East Side
                 lives again. Walking

down Row 6, you can see the tenements,
      the hustling streets, the packed humanity,
                        the peddlars
                                      crying Hot knishes! Tea! Pretzels!

You can almost smell the pickled herring.

In block 10 of the Workmen's Circle plot,
         the cloak makers in the Yiddish theater
group rehearse and the Yarmolinets landsleit branch
                will be meeting again, as they shall
    for all eternity, while over there in block 19
                 the women hem stitchers will protest, once more
          and forever, the price of bread, and my
grandmother will keep playing her Golden Age
                   Center bingo until the sun burns out in
        the sky. This is what we were,

in this dense community at rest,
     a vast stonehenge left for future generations
             to decode. No, this is not Mt. Auburn,
with its rolling hills
       and flowering trees.
No ethereal resurrections will amaze
                        this  graveyard of organizers,
   whose coffins cannot contain
                        the restless dreams that give
         even Death good cause to fear.

That night, silently, I watched
              the TV news report earth tremors
      across northern New Jersey.


All written material © Bill Schechter, 2016
Contact Bill Schechter