Vayekhi: Words

She lived a 100-year span, Jean,
our grandmother, who summons us
 
one by one in those last days
for words, perhaps
 
wisdom. When it’s my turn
she dispatches the others to the kitchen,
 
motions me over, whispers
Liebkind, darling,
 
followed by long Yiddish sentences
I can’t translate.
 
When Jacob summoned his kin
to his deathbed, his favored
 
and unfavored sons,
he offered images for each
 
of springs and livestock,
men with strength like lions,
 
building havens for ships,
tending vineyards,
 
shouldering burdens,
or striking like vipers when angered.
 
And for Joseph, the promise
of racing on hillsides like a colt.
 
Was this advice to build
a vibrant life?
 
Jacob gave his blessings,
although some say he faltered,
 
eyes dim, mistaking grandsons,
Menasseh for Ephraim.
 
So who does my grandmother
think I am?
 
Her mother, her sister?
Is she recounting secrets
 
already lost?
I grasp her hands, whisper
 
love and let words
drift in air, then burst.

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