Meryl Natchez


                     for Benjamin Herman Natchez

My father was afraid
of being poor again,
of telling me
how much money we had,
of Waste, 
that opened the door 
to Want,  
old stalker 
he could never
buy off.

He marches through my childhood
turning out lights, rescuing
lawn chairs from rain,
shaking us scared, his fury
singeing our shared air. 
Now I see the fear 
behind his rage the way light
defines a silhouette on a white sheet.
This man whose hands shook
as he read the paper,
who paced and raved
in daily battle 
with the very safety
he built for us,
the casual way
it made us walk.

Today, I see his hand, cranking
the adding machine over
and over, spinning white ribbons
of cost into the algebraic night. 
I see his face, flushed and streaming with tears
amid the bored suburban congregation
at Yom Kippur, as he rocked and cried,
cried and rocked and mumbled 
to his own service, eyes shut,
delivering his annual reckoning 
to a God I couldn’t imagine.

Today, I say his name aloud,
reaching out into what has no name,
the sound of its syllables
on the lips of his daughter.