Dead Letter Office: Isaac Mershon

Dear Grandpa:

Your funeral would have been my first,
but you had sent me to camp, six thousand
miles away. I was fifteen, too young
to imagine the young revolutionary
who fled the tsar’s thugs for wild
America, New York of foreign
signs and tongues. Who roamed the city curious
about the man whose name — pronounced
Eechay Krem in Polish fashion — adorned
so many stores. In English spelling,
Ice Cream.
                     But then you learned
American ways without forgetting who you were.
Moved to the farm because it had been
forbidden in the old country. But success
grew in the city. You returned to silversmithing
and family, tapping the metal and the daughters
and the company into good harmony.

At the kfar, outside Tel Aviv, I got
the letter from my father
revealing you had died
weeks earlier. My goodbye to you
was a short-sleeved kaddish and the memory
of loss.

I try to tell my daughter
who you were, what you learned
and taught. To be a mensch. Honesty
and justice. Rachmones, compassion.
You gave the trips to Israel, the handmade kiddush cups.
My chief regret: you didn’t get to see
how well we all turned out.

About the Author

Until 2003, David M. Harris had never lived more than fifty miles from New York City. Since then he has moved to Tennessee, acquired a daughter and a classic MG, and gotten serious about poetry. His work has appeared in Pirene’s Fountain (and in First Water, the Best of Pirene’s Fountain anthology), Gargoyle, The Labletter, The Pedestal, and other places. His first collection of poetry, The Review Mirror, was published by Unsolicited Press in 2013.