Offerings for the Dead, by Alan Walowitz

Offerings for the Dead
by Alan Walowitz

Second thoughts sometimes detract
from who you figured you might be
in the distillery of your dreams–
you’d help those in need, comfort the afflicted,
mourn the dead, or at least offer compassion
to those who had been much closer
and in words they could easily take in at a time like this.
A sincere “I don’t know what to say” often turns out
to be better receiving-line chatter
than “My condolences, Ma’am, though
I don’t have the faintest notion who you are.”
Such expressions are often distracting,
and you end up in a handshake that knows no end,
or, God forbid, you hug a stranger
for much too long, and in this dance you have nothing more to say,
and instead begin to babble tidbits from the past–
memories that might just as well be inventions–
and before long you’re blubbering when
all you wanted was a little silent weeping in a corner,
far from the sight of the deceased, who you really liked,
your voice cracking at the seams and any thing
real you were planning to say jumbled and fumfered
like your own worst vision of yourself,
a kid whose mother dragged him to a wake–
where he might at least have learned something useful
for later in life when his mother is gone.

Process notes: I was recently informed that a well-loved poetry teacher, Colette Inez, had passed away, and I just started writing. I didn’t know what the poem would turn out to be. My guess is she would have approved of a poem that doesn’t know where it’s headed at first. It’s certainly not meant to be a memorial for her; she would deserve much better, much richer; it’s much more a memento mori for myself.

Alan Walowitz has been published in various places on the web–and off. He’s a Contributing Editor at Verse-Virtual, an online journal, and teaches at Manhattanville College in Purchase, NY and St. John’s University in Queens. Alan’s chapbook, Exactly Like Love, was published by Osedax Press in 2016 and is now in its second printing.


6 thoughts on “Offerings for the Dead, by Alan Walowitz

    • Ms. Inez would have loved this poem. As I did. I’m sure she would have singled it out and would have read it aloud in front of class. BTW–Upon your demise, I will most definitely write the most heartfelt poem about your glory, beauty, talent, and our friendship and I will share it with everyone I know. Thanks for sharing this excellent poem!

    • Sometimes words are just inadequate to express our feelings, especially around the topic of death, so they are better left unsaid in the hope that one’s presence is sufficient.

  1. Thanks Alan, I often struggle with what to say when I encounter someone who is grieving, having learned of a serious illness, or having just a difficult day. Your words give solace to “just say something you feel,” which is what I will attempt to do. Please keep sharing your wonderful words.

  2. Alan,
    Thanks for sharing this piece of writing. I find myself often stating that I don’t know what to say.
    Your words make me feel better about not always knowing.

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