They are saying Kaddish
but I can’t understand
in this room of family and friends so young;
where I am a stranger hearing words planned
at the hospice only yesterday.
Ancient syllables pass
through morning light, and pass
through a tide of yellow because she asked.
I don’t know this girl who died,
who asked for yellow
in our sleeves, and in our kerchiefs,
and in old ties worn, as voices echo
through dusted light, on children
who mourn and learn to mourn.
I am just acquaintance for a sudden task
a shoulder for my hosts summoned to learn
of service at the synagogue,
and shiva at the home.
I can’t translate through the chants
but for yisrael, but for shalom,
I can’t but I hear amen,
in men’s breath, on women’s sighs;
a blessing, a confusion, through adolescents
wearing clothes perhaps a size
too small, or dug from attics, but wearing
yellow somewhere because she asked.
In unison the sounds:
I can’t understand so I glance
outside, watching butterflies
alit and yellow,
on a darkened mid-March branch.