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The Rising Song
Micro Poetry Collection
by Michal Mahgerefteh 

Introduction


In 2014, my 24-year-old son was rushed to the hospital with a 104oF fever, persistent body aches, and shortness of breath. He spent five days in the hospital, undergoing an array of tests. On the fifth day, the doctors informed us not only that they didn’t know what ailed him, but also that he, my son, would pass away within the next twenty-four hours, undiagnosed and untreated. We were advised to contact our rabbi at the local synagogue and make funeral arrangements. We were devastated but refused to give up hope.


On the sixth day, a specialist from John Hopkins took over my son’s care. He was able to diagnose him with Staph/MRSA, a blood infection, as well as pneumonia/sepsis in his lungs. The battle to save his life began; it would last one and half months. Seven years later, thankfully, my son is still with us.


The condition my son suffered is so rare that it is not recorded in most medical books; it baffled and defeated twenty-two specialists.  Ultimately, he was saved through an experimental treatment for cancer and rare infections known as T-Cell Immunotherapy. It is a name worth remembering.


Book Reviews
 

“The Rising Song is one of the best chapbooks I've read. Learning about the challenges your dear son endured brought tears to my eyes. The well-crafted poems are concise, musical, and profoundly moving."

 

Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda

2006 - 2008 Poet Laureate of Virginia

Author of River Country: A Poem-Play

 

"It's emotional, thoughtful, reflective, and somber. A hopeful story of agony and pain, intertwined with dread of the pain and possibility of losing a loved one. Eventually, it is a victorious and triumphant tone that emerges as death and its dread are conquered."

 

Bob Mwangi, Nairobi, Kenya
Member of Voices Global Group

You touch the reader with your angst, anger, alternating hope, and despair. Anyone who has sat at a sickbed can identify with this; if they have not, you give them an honest dose of what it feels. I like the fact that your poems are all brief. Your imagery and emotion are stronger in their brevity. Powerful, powerful stuff."

 

 

 

Terry Cox-Joseph

 

 

 

2020-2022 President of The Poetry Society of Virginia

Author of Between Then and Now

 

“Anyone who reads this book of poetry will find themselves in the hospital room with this poet and her son. It is impossible not to connect with the spirit that moves through this collection. The poet takes us with her in simple anguished language of a mother who just wants her son to live. It is a marvelously rich book of poems that you will want to go back to again, and again. Mahgerefteh has the ability to hold her reader as close as the prayers she is praying for her son. You will find yourself a part of her heart when you read this work, and you will not be disappointed.”

 

Nancy Powell, Z"L

Former President of The Poetry Society of Virginia

Author of How Far is Ordinary and The Blackbirds Tell Stories

 

“Should children pass before their parents or elders do... it seems that the natural order of the universe is unjustly broken. No one wants to be brought to such an extremity, such as the speaker in these poems. Distraught at the possibility of a son’s premature passing, she turns to language and is not turned away. Poetry, like love, comes to quicken her hope and steal her heart. In The Rising Song, Michal Magherefteh offers unabashed lyrics, and gives thanks that the Beloved is “still here.” 

 

Luisa A. Igloria

2020-2022 Poet Laureate of Virginia

Author of Maps for Migrants

 

"The Rising Song is more than a book of poems. It is a biblical incantation; begging, pleading, supplicating to earth and heaven on behalf of a son in peril of his life. Every emotion is here, every psalm-like song is here, every prayer is here, including the Hallel- "I imagine white doves rising high, flapping wings in song..."

 

Beth SKMorris

Author of In the Aftermath-9/11 Through a Volunteer's Eyes

 

 

 

 

 

The content of this book, 

which chronicles my son's illness

and eventual recovery, is too emotionally 

challenging for some readers.

 So I decided to make it available 

FREE on my website.

 

 

Hospital Is Not Your Place

 

Visitors not welcome; the room echoes

strained conversations, washed in a wave

of hard faces offering no comfort. Loud

babies in squeaky strollers cruising the

oncology floor, kids running the hallways,

adults making small talk about cancer…

death, not recovery. This floor is the end;

a silhouette against the horizon seeping life.  

 

 

Him, Nectarous!

 

Can you hear the sound of ushering

trumpets resonating off the walls;

a host of angel choirs baring the road

to light? In His palm, your mounting ache

rests on a vast thickness of petals floating

on nectar; depleted veins and stiffened lungs

breathe the fruity aroma of aged wine;

disabled limbs grow as Cedar and Oak.

 

O’ Dear God, must you be so
beautiful and alluring to his soul?

 

 

In the Darkest Descent

 

His moaning melts layers in me;

I walk around the room, reciting

healing verses I memorized the

day before, ghastly expressions —

 

the ecstasy of faith clearly upon me;

I place a pocket size Book of Psalms

under his pillow, bow my head over

his, with apologetic voice imploring….

 

 

Praying in Repetitions

 

My hands ache from the grip of endless praying,

intent broadens into mighty persuasion against

God’s will. I close my eyes; listen, the Sound of Harps

ever closer as his final chord fades, nearly devoid of life.

 

My insistence bears the creak of winter’s stiffness,

an unwanted pattern impairing judgment. I release

tension into the silent pulsation in small breaths,

on my knees with a thud, repeat my begging.

 

 

For Many Nights

 

I wake from a shallow sleep, stretch arms,

kick off the flannel sheets, and stand by his bed,

gently touch his wrist, two fingers between

the bone and the tendon over his radial artery,

a steady pulse; he’s still here. The cold polished

floor sends shivers through my sore spine…

The air in the room is the chill of winter. Only

his resting complexion warms my surrender.

 

 

Praying with Ms. Williams

 

With the afternoon easing into dusk, she

enters; an affliction of furry moles on her

face, plum-purple hair neatly tucked under

a worn tweed-hat. She stands close to his bed.

 

Crippled by good manners, she rolls fat fingers

over the gaping cracks of The Book, Shuah is on

her mind; I hear the struggle in her voice, peppered

with broken sentences; the central pillars of faith

 

cloaked in the purest thoughts may not reverse

the faith of this Jewishboy; eyes fixed on the hanging

Stars of David, she places both hands on his head

and suggests: “Let’s pray to the God of all people.”

 

I imagine prayers, seeping through naked bones,

reaching the seed of our forefathers in the unbroken

DNA, letting every verse weave into hope, a miracle.

 

 

A Desperate Plea

 

For the second time since dawn,

the kidney specialist drags his

arrogance into the isolated room;

 

pulls a large chair with loose arms,

reluctantly sits on the torn leather

cover, takes shallow breaths, strokes

 

his salted dark hair with both hands,

then fans light sweat with crumpling lab

results, sending a high volt through me,

 

and I swear at him to tunnel throughout

this Earth to find a cure, it’s your duty

I whisper, aware beyond prayers… 

 

 

Hopeful Dream

 

In the hospital room Shuah appeared;

a plume of sea-spray leaping off a wave,

stringing words, like a jeweler looping

sea pearls. Love thickens my veins as

 

slivers of His reflection above the bed

swell my son’s body with healing dust,

resting vast hands on frail flesh, glancing

at me, “Feel your brokenness, wake up.”

 

 

And So I will—Sacrifice

 

By his bed, the sweet light that came

to Shuah in his cradle weighs the comfort

of my bitter heart; a beggar at your door

I have no King, no Master to my lips.

 

Take my broken prayers, it is I who rebel

against my weary existence, let the light

disclose the sacred of his young nakedness,

I will bear the stamp of Your love. 

 

 

Dying Moment

 

It’s not long before memories

of him will intrude on my every

thought, suffocating the cavity

in my breast-bones with the

enormity of his absence;

sunrise will be a hopeful gift

 

 

A New Journey Awaits

 

I wrap a blanket tightly around

my shoulders and over my head,

rest on a wooden bench fractured

by fungal decay, observe as life

renews into spring; birds chirping

in the crotch of freshly pruned branches,

pliant seedlings nourishing growth

onto full bloom… tomorrow at shacharit

the latest test results will engulf our bodies;

we will sway like reeds in a wind-storm.

 

 

Passing Through the Cemetery

 

Exhausted from the long stay at the ER,

I walk away, angry at the ten specialists

and their failure to find the cause for his

 

sudden illness, stop by Starbucks

on Colley, buy a Carmel Frappe and two

almond snacks for the late-night drive

 

around town; consider the uncertainty,

the risk of premature passing, how his

young-life might turn into a memory.

 

I end on Princess Anne Road and park

by the partially open gate; massive black

poles with rusty Stars of David mounted

 

on two stone columns, safeguarding

the living from the dead, expansive rows

of marble stones, sharp foliage poking

 

through crevices on headstones. The cold

oppresses my bones. I crouch by mounds

of cool earth, a tide of fury rising within; 

 

push my hands with hesitation into the damp

earth, feel her richness tingling through my skin,

roll my head from one shoulder to the other,

 

rocking my body side to side weep freely,

seize eternity, Shepherd of the Forest,

please receive him, our son, with dignity. 

 

 

The Choice

 

Break, my son, from your ill body;

better buzz by the Mouth of the Tree,

storing knowledge till your next gigul.

 

 

Relentless Prayers Invoking God

 

Surely You can hear them spiraling upward

in chiming collisions. There is a tremor in the

world; bleeding sunsets exude darkness, drain

 

the steady flow of healing sun-rays from the east,

during Shacharit. The universe spins in the orb

of righteousness, nurses each reborn soul with

 

fantastic desires and wild passions, dances

to brightest thoughts. You, our Protective Shield,

thirst the company of men; fashion experiences

 

for the self-indulgent, deaf to my son’s cries. Early

light brings us closer, You and I visible to one another.

I roll the leather strap around my arm and fingers,

 

faith must answer to formidable obstacles, I convince

myself, as I kneel, repeat three upon three: Give him Life! 

 

 

Hope

 

Nothing interrupts the darkness

except an invisible speck of light,

teetering like a candle’s wisp about

to be extinguished into thin shrouds.

 

Hope seizes ancestral ghosts of youth,

as you appear by the Gate to claim him,

Hebrew hymns vibrating the root chakra

of Malchut. Hear my voice before you lift

 

the veil. I stretch arms with piercing prayers,

each vowel trembling flesh and bone until

his ageless soul shouts, Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

 

 

Talking to His Higher Self

 

My son, your body is the Shrine of Spirit,

speak to it through an actor’s mask, both

as One beneath the Tree quenching knowledge,

 

attaining perfection as deeds of youth rising

and falling to a sigh, an image, a word, a kiss.

The Dark Earth, a pool of white stillness with

 

long caressing strokes, embodies the ego and

richness of separation from Divine Strength,

the likeness of new life in your mighty pulse;

 

pierce the Mortal Light, my son, leap among

the beauty of vowels, like walking in a field

of wheat, lure embryonic-seed of hope with

 

promises. Notice your Guardians in ceremonial

wraps glancing out the shadows, eyes like the

the first day of creation, reach to them, Live! 

 

 

Life Will Rise to His Beating Drums

 

… and his eyes will give silent thanks

to new gained energy, asking questions

without words, looking more engaged,

alive, voice lost its raspy quality, musty

sweat emanating from hospital sheets

replaced by burnt sienna scent, glowing

in the dying dimness of his favorite time of day…   

 

 

The Rising Song

 

The doctor walks in, hesitant,

both hands across his chest,

stands motionless, like a statue

 

about to be burned to ashes.

The family quiets, glancing

at each other with anxiety.

 

I cover my mouth with a fist,

holding back tears; forcing

composure. I have been ready,

 

ready to wear the biblical cloth

of mourners, sit Shiva, entwine

my son’s memory with mine for

 

the rest of my life, through beyond.

When he spoke, I imagine white doves

rising high, flapping wings in song… 

All the poems are the original works of Michal Mahgerefteh

 

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