Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Poem of the Day: “What George Kennan Couldn’t Teach Me About Containment” by Gerard Sarnat, Poet of the Week

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “What George Kennan Couldn’t Teach Me About Containment” by Gerard Sarnat our Poet of the Week for the week of January 4, 2015.  One of Dr. Sarnat’s poems will be featured in the Review every day this week.  His bio may be found here:  http://eretzsongs.blogspot.com/2015/01/poet-of-week-gerard-sarnat.html.

What George Kennan Couldn’t Teach Me About Containment
Gerard Sarnat
 
During the beginning of the Cold War, Dad never talked
& I wasn’t bar mitzvahed. Instead Poppy left a slew of books
on my bedside table: One had colored pictures of birds and bees,
another was the Origin of Species which I didn’t understand.

When Pops turned 80 he air-mailed me a folder containing
a safety box key, cemetery contacts & whom-to-invite,
where & what to eat afterward, files of survivor benefits,
insurance adjuster/ his man-pedi/ her hairdresser addresses

-- it was all there in a backpack for the next 19 years.
I shoved the overflow lists of doctors & instructions
(“No chapel, no graveside, ABSOLUTELY no rabbi”)
& burial plot Zeroxes (“Originals at bank”) into a sachel.

Hopping to it each time the phone rang (he didn’t text),
it took all I had in me to be on-call for Father forever.
Seeing the burden grow, my wife counseled, “Leave that stuff
behind on vacations” but I didn’t. In Hawaii, I plan Poppa’s

centenary while the fam sleeps. An email arrives, “Got chest pain.
Change from Mt. Sinai to Hillside STAT.”  Rummaging numbers,
I make a few calls since it’s 3 hours earlier in LA. At first clearing
my head, I proceed to pack up the spiffy new black roller suitcase.

Poet’s Notes:  For readers too young to remember, George Kennan (pictured) was the American diplomat "father of containment” regarding the Soviet Union during Cold War. My poem attempts to use humor and irony to extend the metaphor of containment to my “cold war” relationship with my own father.

Editor’s Note:  The humor and irony here really make this one sing. 

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