i. יִתְבָּרַךְ וְיִשְׁתַּבַּח (glorified and celebrated)

i am afraid of the day

that i will say the mourner’s kaddish for you.

when i will sit in a minyan, surrounded by strangers

saying the names of their ancestors, sisters, or brothers,

and i will say your name, stacey.

in words that are foreign to us both,

in a language you and i never spoke,

i will say:

יִתְבָּרַךְ וְיִשְׁתַּבַּח וְיִתְפָּאַר וְיִתְרומַם וְיִתְנַשּא וְיִתְהַדָּר וְיִתְעַלֶּה וְיִתְהַלָּל שְׁמֵהּ דְּקֻדְשָׁא בְּרִיךְ הוּא

when i was younger and i thought you were old,

we would both pray for healing, for another year

in the book of life. i thought they were songs.

the mourner’s kaddish is different,

with no melodies to hide behind,

we thank god for the grief

we have suffered.

regardless of whether or not i agree

i will say amen.


ii. וְיִתְפָּאַר וְיִתְרומַם (lauded and praised)

i only call my mother for your sake.

in every conversation, your name slides through

our lips. stories slipped past me so easily,

when i thought they could still be told again.

oh please, i used to think when you got lost

driving in a straight line, overshooting the

zoo once, then twice, then somehow finding

yourself in the employee-only backlot while

your mother, my mother, and i waited

three generations on a hot sidewalk.

sometimes, i still tell this story

and feel guilty at the jokes i used to make

before the stories shifted to

please, don’t let it get worse,

i begged before i saw your wig cap

on your hairline and sun-goggles in the

dimly lit restaurant. you fumbled through

a menu you couldn’t read, not knowing

you were no longer beautiful.

please i thought before i saw you

in the hospital. i couldn’t deny how much you’ve lost.

you took twenty from your wallet and asked

me for a “hot iced tea with lemon.” you liked the snapple

i gave you. “keep the change.”

i didn’t. i felt too guilty.


last time i saw you, you called me

beautiful. you still call me beautiful

as if you could tell. i wonder if you remember me

differently now. and i wonder

if i’ll forget you differently too.

“this is it,” my mother said.

i asked her how she felt, and she said

“they say i have to be strong

for them.” i asked my mother who

“they” were, but she won’t tell me.

and so, i’ll never know.


iii. וְיִתְנַשּא וְיִתְהַדָּר (acclaimed and honored)

you never read poetry, did you?

my mother said you weren’t a reader,

you resisted the siddur at minyan

and your eyes glazed over the pages

so you didn’t have to say these words.

i don’t want to say them either, someday.

but when you are well enough to speak,

you tell me about vhs tapes

of murder mysteries and histories,

stories you get from your library,

any stories except your own.

i want to hear your stories

so i know that you lived once,

that your life didn’t end months ago

as you still breathe, waiting for your funeral.

tell me about the dog and your first battle scar

tell me about who you were at my age.

tell me why you see yourself in me

because you are the only one that sees it

and i’m terrified that i will be left

storyless too. and yet, i know.

this is it.

so i tell you stories on the phone.

silly ones, happy ones,

with blind optimism.

like there is something worth being happy about.


iv. וְיִתְהַדָּר וְיִתְעַלֶּה (extolled and exalted)

i want you to tell me

why you wouldn’t tell

anybody you were sick.

how long could it go on?

how did you let denial

coil around your throat so long?

i play naive

because i know you believe

that the world can be a beautiful place

and good only exists

if you believe there is no terror

if there are no problems feasting and festering.

god, i wish you were right.

i wish that things were better.

i wish you could see me

and call me beautiful

for the selfish reason

of letting me believe you.

of letting me believe in something other than the inevitability

of a room in a synagogue, and a hesitant prayer.


v. לְעֵלָּא מִן כָּל בִּרְכָתָא וְשִׁירָתָא (beyond all earthly words and blessings)

i await your crisis.

i’ve let it slip through me

as easily as we slipped across the border

from your world into mine.

i squirm

and can’t let this

end, i don’t know

how i can, don’t know how to

end things. don’t know

how to pray. so i’ll keep ending,

waiting for you to tell me something that’ll stay

i’ll keep ending, keep saying

goodbye, keep waiting,

keep waiting for the call,

and waiting.


R'fuah Sh'leimah

Abbie Langmead

"This absolute beast of a work has shown the way other people have impacted me, and shows the way that the past still works through me. On the surface, it shows the traces of my Jewish upbringing and the loss of my aunt, Stacey, on how I navigated grief. Upon further review, I'm seeing traces of the professor who convinced me to write it and has now spent a decade supporting my work. I'm seeing traces of another professor who told me that this poem was "(rightfully) angry at God," and how I didn't believe him until saying this prayer multiple times during funeral rites. I see traces of my mom, who was a Jewish educator and loved this poem, but will unfortunately never see it published due to her recent passing from the same disease as her sister two years prior. All of these small moments of the people around me that I've loved and lost appear in my work, and in return the work reflects how I honor them now."

Abbie Langmead (she/they) is a Sapphic Jewish writer, originally from Boston, MA. She is a recent graduate of Emerson College and will soon be attending Trinity College Dublin. Their work has appeared or is forthcoming with Quarter Press, Periphery Journal, Barbar, and others. Find them in those publications, hosting dinner parties in an apartment too crowded for the amount of people she invited, or exploring cities both familiar and new.

Why is this your Trace Fossil?