My Mom Offers to Send Me My Grandfather’s Poetry

“Some of it is pretty dark,” she warns.

Ben Kassoy
Human Parts


Photo: Flickr / Tekke

“I found some of Papa’s poetry,” she tells me on the phone.

“I didn’t know Papa wrote poetry.”

“Me neither. I just have to warn you, it’s pretty dark. Do you want me to send it?”

I’d read some of his writing before — Germany, 1944: the fire. He told how he’d survived; he skipped the once-future grandfathers who did not.

In the same land, in a separate tale, Papa’s jeep flips off a bridge, launching him and the others into the river. Papa is divinely plucked out of the water like Moses. He lands on the ground somehow whole, like a cat after a nine-story fall.

Included: Papa never learned to swim. Omitted: his passengers never emerged.

Fire and water — what else did Papa endure that, even on the page, threatens to destroy me?

The death and the bodies. The depression, the cancer, the Parkinson’s. The agony and the loss of the two women he loved and married and buried.

Papa hid this self — instead taught me chess, braved every God-awful band recital, rewarded the finder of the afikomen with a placemat featuring the constellations.

How many tears have my parents and my parents’ parents cried and dried before I wandered into the room to ask for a Pop-Tart?

What have they survived and suppressed so I could write my own poetry about raspberries and freckles and a Christmas Lyft to IHOP?

“Yes, Mom, send the poems.”

I need to know.

If you enjoyed this, check out “When Mom Served Raspberries (Imaginations Ran Wild).”



Ben Kassoy
Human Parts

Poet, writer, author of THE FUNNY THING ABOUT A PANIC ATTACK -- available now!