Edna Shochat

Mother, Young Men Christian Association, Pope and Circumstances, From Breast Cancer to Neither/Closure, When the Time Arrives: Edna Shochat


I see my mother in the hallway.
She has come to live with me.
I ask her:
Now? Why not years ago
when you were young and strong,
when you could help me iron shirts
and feed the hummingbirds
by the window?
Why did you wait until you were tired
and would rather stay home than go out
to watch the shorebirds by the bay
or a late-night picture show?

My mother doesn’t answer.
She cannot say a word.
She just keeps looking at me
as I watch her small, gray-haired reflection
in the hallway mirror.

Young Men Christian Association

To each his Temple.
My house of worship
was established years ago
for young men, Christian.
Today’s YMCA is simply The Y.
Why? Because All are welcome now
regardless of age, gender, or faith.

Neither young nor male,
Jewish by birth and atheist by choice,
I devoutly attend a daily ritual
in the pool.
Like joining a Minyan
gathering for a morning prayer
at the Shul
I dip into the blue mikveh
and under watchful eye of young lifeguards –
swim like a gray-haired mermaid
counting my blessings.

Pope and Circumstances

Holy Father, bishop of Rome,
pontifex maximus. Is he not
just flesh and blood
mortal like the rest of us
who may sometimes sit
not on the throne of St. Pete
but rather in the dentist’s chair
or, worse yet, prepare
for next day’s colonoscopy?

He may be attired in full regalia,
complete with head gear of triple tiara,
but under the white cassock
and golden pellegrina
is just what you’d see
at the men’s shower arena.

From Breast Cancer to Neither / Closure

They took away my breasts
but not my heart.
And spared my brain.

A void lined with memories
has filled with a new sensibility
and a new definition of beauty:
Nothing is more beautiful than life.

Today I clean out the closet.
Close the final chapter
of my Book of Boobs,
end the saga Breasts, Interrupted.
The last remaining brassieres
in my chest of drawers,
still in perfect shape,
head to Goodwill.

May the lovely cups
find a good home,
a new B-size pair
to have and to hold.

When the Time Arrives

One day it will happen.
I will take my final breath.
So please take note:
I don’t wish to be
embalmed for viewing,
made to look lovelier
than I ever did alive
then packed in a box
and buried in the ground.

I wish to be cremated.
But please don’t store my ashes
in a decorative pewter urn
displayed atop the mantle.

Carry them over
to the Boise River,
by the weeping willow
where Canada geese and mallards float
and bald eagles perch
in cottonwood trees
watching the water for fish.

Just remember
to sprinkle my ashes over the stream
sometime in late afternoon
or early evening.
As you may know,
I never was
a morning person.

Edna Shochat was born in Mandatory Palestine which, in 1948, became Israel. Her native language is Hebrew. She studied fine art and graphic design and worked in book publishing before coming to the US with her family in 1971, at age 30. She worked in advertising and daily newspapers and began to write short personal essays. While undergoing chemotherapy, at age 70, she discovered and embraced poetry. What began as a vehicle to carry her on a journey through breast cancer continues to inspire her on the path we all share – the passage of time and the journey of aging.