My father wrote this poem in 1930.

-- Jared Israel


by Leo Israel

Now in the world
the funeral is over. The boys in the hired Packards
step on it to get back in time for dinner
and the relatives begin the long trip home to Hoboken.

And when you think of it, to forget a man is easy:
the rich get monuments with their names engraved,
and you can read in religious languages,
Catholic or Hebrew,
"Here's so-and-so who died."
Lodge brothers buy plots in the Bronx or Brooklyn
It comforts them to think that after death
Their friends can come and see them all together,
and big branches have filled whole cemeteries.

But the city paved the dent
in the sidewalk outside the Chrysler building where Slussman,
age 45, crashed from the 60th story;
and who will bid for the seat where he sat thinking
sub-title thoughts and all the while forgetting
the rent at a double feature matinee?

Sometimes bankers are guilty when banks fail:
the auditor comes, the proof is there in writing,
yet always there's a question, "Is it justice?"
and the newspapers ask for a special investigation.

Then what of the small man, what of his speculation,
what of the shortage in the petty cash?
guilty when the broker called up at the office,
he must have known before then he would crash.
Then what was he thinking of, how was he figuring,
or was he asleep before that, and maybe dreaming?
Even when he sent the boy to camp last summer,
or when he moved to the Brighton apartment,
he needn't have done it; if he had any pride,
he wouldn't have lived so, and he needn't have died!

It goes to show, though: Slussman was one of the boys,
and when he died, the boys remembered Slussman.
We took up a collection when we read
Slussman was dead;
the boss began it,
we all chipped in and bought a stone that said,
"Here is Slussman."
And we went to his grave, and we put flowers on it.

(C) Jared Israel 1999

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