Introduction to the collection.
My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 41, and for over 25 years my father cared for her during her treatments and surgeries. Despite his love and support, he sometimes struggled with anger and frustration. When my mother's health began to deteriorate, my father remained by her side through the years of silent struggle. Towards the end of her life, he became weary and emotionally and physically exhausted, and was eventually diagnosed with cancer and diabetes himself. Despite his own struggles, there was no one to take away his pain. Through this collection, I aim to reflect on my mother's last days and give voice to my father's poignant struggle.
“The Chambers Within” by Gillian Lee Smith
www.gillianleesmith.com. Printed with Permission
2013 Second Edition 48 pages (ppb)
Aware, She Says Goodbye
Mother swishes the air with her hands
I'm cold the ground gaping wide—cover me
slapping her hands to her cheeks in horror
I don’t want to be remembered like this—cover me
soothing bleeding lips with soft palms
the clock tick-tocks urges lullabies—cover me
fearsome green eyes stare hard into mine
my spirit’s flesh is ONE with God—cover me
fading memory repeatedly asks for names
I must go I don’t know you all of you—cover me
Copyright by Michal Mahgerefteh
Things She Left Behind
spring showers roughen the Mediterranean
punctuating days surging sound of rain
pouring through the bedroom window
onto burgundy caftan folded flat on the bed
strawberry blond hair twisted into seams
pillows sheets blankets towels slippers
everything ripples a memory on Father’s face
as he notices things she left behind
Copyright by Michal Mahgerefteh
Father spirit at low ebb moves with agitation
stares through the narrow kitchen window quiet
moon’s shadow stretches the edge of fronds days
rolled in coal loneliness forgiveness in its glow
startled by the kettle’s whistle he turns to memories
fallen limbs bent—tucked in tachrichim covered
in thick black plastic lowered to muddy pit enclosed
by ashen concrete blocks in Avenue of Stars—13:1
maybe this is a dream he thinks or maybe he just
can’t hear the sound of scissors cutting through fabric
a broken voice lets outcry glances at the Zinger
sewing machines resting—rusting in her absence
people, they offer no comfort Father rubs his eyes
at the protectors of the evil eye hung above doors
wonders why the porcelain garlic, plastic jalapeños
metal horseshoe and hamsa charms failed to heal
cruel—false hope lashes at the flow of time he knows
her neshama stripped of skin and bones crossed
The Gate to converse with Shechinah in The Garden
Copyright by Michal Mahgerefteh
Michal Mahgerefteh's second edition of What's Left Behind is a further attempt to deal with the grief of losing her mother. The grieving process grew more intense with every conversation she had with her father, who supported and cared for her mother for twenty-five years. The affects of this spirit-challenging period seep through every poem: "For twenty-five years Mother’s lips/ kneaded words with a pinch of salt./ Her beautiful green eyes, now colorless." In A Sign of Grief the reader follows the emotional, spiritual, and physical turmoil of both the poet and her father during the time from birth to deathbed, and all that transpired in the intervening time. The burden is unbearable and in the end the poet resorts, reluctantly, to “all I want is to flee from your dark days/ that sealed My Book of Life/ until the hurt no longer/ bears your name”(No More Hurt). Michal Mahgerefteh’s new edition is replete with remarkable sincerity, profound sensitivity, and unconditional love. Its universal message will touch every soul.
Dr. Dina Ripsman Eylon
Publisher and Editor-in-Chief
Women in Judaism: A Multidisciplinary Journal
This book is a beautiful work of poetry. Each poem, although all revolving around the death of the author's mother after 25 years of battling cancer, is a stand-alone piece. Together, however, they almost seem like one long poem broken up by different moments in time. I found each poem to be wonderfully written, and able to pull on my emotions. I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a reason to start reading poetry, or to anyone who just enjoys reading well-written poetry.
I won this collection of poems from a free giveaway at Goodreads.comand grew somewhat anxious waiting for it to arrive. The subject matter of the book hits fairly close to home for me. Whereas the author lost her mother while witnessing her father's struggle, my family went through a similar situation with the passing of my brother. So in a way, I was excited to read these poems and at the same time, I was dreading it.
There is an intense level of raw emotion within the lines of each poem. Thoug I won this collection of poems from a free giveaway at Goodreads.comand grew somewhat anxious waiting for it to arrive. The subject matter of the book hits fairly close to home for me. Whereas the author lost her mother while witnessing her father's struggle, my family went through a similar situation with the passing of my brother. So in a way, I was excited to read these poems and at the same time, I was dreading it.
There is an intense level of raw emotion within the lines of each poem. Though they vary in length, the power is still apparent to the reader. With honesty and real emotion, the author allows us, the readers, a glimpse into her grieving process without a thought to whether we find it messy or painful. It's an interesting blend of honoring her mother's memory and dealing with the stray threads of life that remain for her father and the author herself.
I was quite taken with a few of the poems. They mirrored the emotions that I felt when watching my brother slip from this world into the next. In Things She Left Behind, the words paint the images vividly and without closing my eyes, I could picture the items that my parents packed to take home. Each item symbolizing something precious and sacred in an everyday kind of way to my brother as the items in the poem were to the author's mother. My heart grew heavy as I read By Her Resting Place. Everything I felt at my brother's graveside was summed up in these few lines.
This collection of poems has the ability to reach into the reader and touch their soul with the longing and love carried by their words. Since nearly everyone experiences the loss of a loved one at some point in their lives, they will be able to feel the author's words, not just read them. I truly loved these poems. They say the things that we sometimes cannot. If you're looking for a deeply meaningful and loving collection, I would buy this in a heartbeat.
I received this book through Goodreads First Reads Giveaway
Such a beautiful and hauntingly sad book of poetry. I felt such empathy for this family. The writing was good and left me feeling lucky to not have been touched by so much suffering. My only complaint , if you can even call it that, was that I am a christian and not very knowledgeable on the subject of the Jewish religion and culture. This book is peppered with language from that religion. There is a small glossary of terms at the end and that helped.
I would recommend this book not just to poetry lovers but to anyone who has lost someone who meant the world to them.
I received this book through GoodReads' First Reads
This concise book was able to tell an implacably poignant and heartwrenching story that is likely to hit very close to home for many readers. Mahgerefteh’s poems relate to all of the emotion pinnacles of death and dying including hope, desperation, aching, anticipation, despondency, reminiscence, and perseverance. Each poem feels so personal and heartfelt that you cannot help but be drawn into the author’s world. I’m very glad I had the chance to read this and have already promised to loan it to a friend!
A stunningly, sorrowful collection of deep emotion tied to complex relationships. The author illuminates her own life's journey to the point of her mother's death with a poignancy and beauty in the ugliest of circumstances. It holds you to the last word and dares you to savor it as you read it, again. Truly lovely.
I got this in a giveaway here on GoodReads. I loved every word of it. I felt the pain, but it also helped me to release some of the pain I have pent up since my grandmother died of cancer when I was about 14 years old. It was a quick read, but worth every second.
I really enjoyed the poetry in this book. To be able to write so honest and being able to relate to it was amazing. Would highly recommend.
Michal Mahgerefteh's second edition of "What's Left Behind" is a poignant and introspective work that delves into the depths of grief and the human experience. Her personal journey of loss and mourning is beautifully captured in her poems, which reveal the overwhelming pain and suffering that accompanied her mother's battle with cancer and eventual passing. The profound impact of this spirit-challenging period is palpable in every verse, as she eloquently portrays the physical and emotional turmoil that she and her father endured. In "A Sign of Grief," the reader is taken on an emotional journey that encompasses the full spectrum of human emotion, from the joy of birth to the heart-wrenching pain of the deathbed. Throughout the intervening years, the burden of grief weighs heavily on both the poet and her father, leaving an indelible mark on their souls. The intensity of their pain is rendered with remarkable sincerity, profound sensitivity, and an unwavering sense of love. In the end, the poet finds solace in the realization that she must let go of the hurt in order to move forward. Reluctantly, she acknowledges that the pain can no longer bear her mother's name and longs to flee from the dark days that have sealed her Book of Life. The message conveyed by Michal Mahgerefteh's work is universal and speaks to the shared human experience of love, loss, and the transformative power of grief.
2011 Bethesda Poetry
Writing Competition Finalist
Ardent: A Journal of Poetry and Art
"Upon Her Death"
Cyclamens and Swords Press (Israel)
"The Mourner’s Prayer"
The Ilanot Review (Israel)
"No Dinner for the Mourners"
Mediterranean Magazine (Sweden)
Poetry Society of Virginia
80th Anniversary Anthology
Shofar Literary Review
"A Sigh of Grief"
So Long Anthology
"Things She Left Behind"
"No More Hurt"
"During the Shiva"
The Loss Award
Austin Poetry Society
"The Agony of Looking Back"
Transcendent Visions Magazine
"For Twenty-Five Years"
"Between Being and Ceasing to Be"
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