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poetry
Anamnesis
"Anamnesis" – 4/18/20
 
I have often found myself at the center
Of well-meaning, entirely on-point parody
Around the topic of guilt. I have of course poked fun
Of this most abundant age old tradition the likes
Of which very few others have rivaled
 
Jewish parents make us feel guilty that they do and do and do
But does anyone appreciate? Would it kill us not to turn
Everything into an argument that's going to exacerbate ulcers
Ignite a heart attack, a stroke or worse? What worse would
Constitute we have no idea but the words "or worse" become
 
Barometers of a cultural point of reference so common
The actual substance of the phenomenon falls by the wayside
Of making fun generally speaking that's a healthy diversion
Mrs. Maisel, Woody Allen, The Nanny, Tracy Ullman, Fiddler
Archetypes so familiar they make us laugh and guilt becomes
 
Something we can cathart away together since we all felt it
Every time we were dismissive or didn't call or forgot to thank
Or G-d forbid, actually neglected to do that thing we were
Supposed to do that was so important we could practically
Hear the wailing a siren of complaining before the task was

Even assigned whining and kvetching have become
Synonymous with the cliché of guilt but sometimes it comes
Quietly without the comic relief of a mother or a bubbe or
Anything other than the reality that we are not the other and
May never be as put-upon as anybody else the distance
 
We're now encouraged to create does not negate the intrinsic
Nature of a deprecating self someone asked me tonight
If I felt I had changed since all of this happened or rather,
Since a couple years ago was I a different person now
The guilt I felt in suggesting "no" felt Herculean on my shoulder
 
What about those I knew a year ago, or two, who did not
Survive what about the women who did not make it out alive
Cancer spurs a kind of desperation to want to let go of
Everything non-essential and that even includes guilt
Meta as it is, I wonder if the way I've changed the most since
 
Then has been my willingness to submit to the randomness
Of suffering my willingness to concede that in spite of it
Being out of my control it was not at my hand and that meant
I was not responsible even if I empathized sometimes to levels
Detrimental to my health good intentions can't heal everyone
 
So my parents have put it to me, sometimes rather harshly,
As though my orientation to people has been like childrens'
To puppies I was always the one reprimanded for adopting
Lost souls, people and causes without thinking them through
Properly and it's true I haven't necessarily but faith comes
 
In so many forms and while I may feel guilty sometimes
For having survived more than one kind of crisis over these
Last Ulyssean years, I can't take on the guilt I feel right now
For not being where I "belong" because where I am is out of
Harm and while I know this is clear it is also tragic
 
I wonder: what is the definition of tzedukah, to you? Is it
Helping a stranger get back onto his or her feet, or is it
Nursing loved-ones to health so hope can make ends meet?
Is it adopting strays or staying entirely out of the way
Of those who may be better off fending for themselves?
 
The definition of personality is something I don't consider
Often but tonight when I read about zoom funerals
And psychopathic hate-mongers in one information breath
When I contemplate living for the moment pitted against
Death's ephemeral essence the presence of guilt resurges
 
Being semi-healthy and substantially out of harms way
Breaks me down to a blithering, invertebrate, uncontrollable
Display of acquiescence all I learned about what I can't fix
And who I cannot please and those I cannot rescue at the
Expense of my own health goes out the window you ask me
 
How I have changed and in a nutshell I would say
That I am less focused on a past I can't rewrite than
A future I can refract and while history can educate
My cells to avert certain representations of hell
Never again will I allow it to become the premise for
 
Decision-making vs. instinct which has my immanent respect
So while I may be mostly the same, my reverence for
That which one cannot name is far greater and logic
I have learned can be the most powerful gas-lighter
What one does or does not deserve is not as crucial
 
To me now as whether the opportunity can arise to be heard
So on this Shabbat night I give thanks for the freedom to
Hear my own thoughts without being told they are not
Valid for whatever convoluted reason and I would say in
Hindsight were you to ask me again how most I have changed
I am less apt to look for anyone to save, or to suffer shame