Shadow and Light: The Transitory

Summer, 2004

Steve Goldman 

      ---For Herb Goldberg
           In Memoriam
Weep Zion
For us little guys from
And everyone else.

He is of the best
That we were
We are
We are becoming

For as he became "no more..."--he has not.
As he receded, he didn't dwindle.
He kept his humor
Kept his nerve
Kept his self.

"Ess und gedenk"--"eat and remember", he'd say.
He, that consummate exemplar of "rachmunas"
Jewish for empathy / identification:
Concern for justice, social, personal
For his co-beings
And witness to life's robbery from you,
He was the first to say it for me, to me
My book by that name I dedicate to him:
A standard bearer for the animate impulse,
A shock troop in death
For love.

Is it dying or the dentist you fear more?
Clearly it's the dentist.
Or is it?
What would Mel Brooks have said,
If comedy is "You fall in a man hole;
Tragedy: I get a hangnail?"

After the news
I drive slowly in the rain:
The Moonlight Sonata

His sister found him a Jewish cemetery
That would bury a tattooed man.
And, remembering the old and great Lenny Bruce routine on the same theme--
I'm told this excited and relieved him,
Especially since it had a nice view
For when his kids would come to see him.
"View?" asked Jimmy Gitter honestly enough,
"What will you care?"
It was that he was concerned for others,
For his own.

When I saw him that one last time
He asks me ironically what's that growing in my stomach -
Indicating my 40-year cultivated beer-gut -
As fast as shit, as fast as Brooklyn I reply
"Not cancer I don't think"
And he says "Good. I wouldn't want that."
Ever in code, and the code will do,
We forgive each other.

As approaching and on through death
He became we others.
As Auden said of the just dead Yeats
"He became his admirers"
Herb became the rest of us
And his legacy of blessing:
He gave himself to us.

So as nothing-but-future
Traverses the life-arc
To nothing-but-past,
That is
When it comes my time, your time
When the rubber stamp is withdrawn from the paper
The negative from the print,
What legacy will you or I have left?

His was love.