Between the ball scores and the weather
(Boston slips a game behind, cloudy with a chance of rain)
they give your death one well-enunciated line,
memento mod on Channel Five.

And it did rain in Boston on the first day
of the world without you, the first day
of the New Year of the Jews, my Jews,
of whom I was the first son to speak
that language which was always yours,
though none of us could ever own
that Harvardian Back Bay Virginia drawl
except those among us seeking final hygiene
in Pilgrim wives and studies of The Faerie Queen.

The Russian Jews, the steerage Jews, the Chelsea Jews
blending piety and greed to produce ambition

and the longing to speak perfect English
on which I apparently O.D.’ed.
When I informed my father I would forsake
pharmacy for poetry, we both knew
something broke. The language came between us.
We argued on for years but never really spoke.

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 9 Number 10, on page 36
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