Edited and introduced by Wesley McNair, Maine poet laureate.

In this week’s poem, Ira Sadoff of Waterville departs from a rabbi’s depiction of his mother in her eulogy, describing the mother he actually knew.

My Mother’s Funeral

By Ira Sadoff

The rabbi doesn’t say she was sly and peevish,

fragile and voracious, disheveled, voiceless and useless,

at the end of her very long rope. He never sat beside her

like a statue while radio voices called to her from God.

He doesn’t say how she mamboed with her broom,

staggered, swayed, and sighed afternoons,

till we came from school to feel her. She never frightened him,

or bent to kiss him, sponged him with a fever, never held his hand,

bone-white, bolted doors, and shut the blinds. She never sent

roaches in a letter, he never saw her fall down stairs, dead sober.

He never watched her sweep and murmur, he never saw

spiderwebs she read as signs her life was over, long before

her frightened husband left, long before

they dropped her in a box, before her children turned

shyly from each other, since they never learned to pray.

If I must think of her, if I can spare her moment on the earth,

I’ll say she was one of God’s small sculptures,

polished to a glaze, one the wind blew off a shelf.

Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 1998 by Ira Sadoff. Reprinted from “Grazing: Poems,” University of Illinois Press, 1998, by permission of Ira Sadoff. Comments about may be directed to Gibson Fay-LeBlanc at [email protected] or 228-8263. Take Heart: More Poems from Maine, a brand new anthology collecting the final two and a half years of this column, will be available late this year from Down East Books.