A Brief History of the Number Two

Cross-posted from Tikkun.

The poem is dedicated to my family friend Navenka Gritz, whose son David was killed by a bomb at Hebrew University in 2002.

For Navenka

Sometimes the same picture –
a young man’s wave
of horse chestnut hair, walnut eyes –
the photo again and again
on bookshelves, bedside table,
kitchen windowsill, dresser.

I can hardly stand to look
but the mother looks and looks,
drinks and drinks, listens
to the voice of her son
in the old cassette tapes
he made: Sibelius,
Led Zeppelin, Brahms –
while working in her studio,

winding the thread tight
and each finished piece
is for him, he lives
in this yellow bead, this thread
circling the bead, its sheen
is the son, its route on the board
the body the mother washed,
each hair she stroked
in the morning, waking him.

I want to wake him, her son,
and send the other boy –
the bomber – home
to his own mother.

I want to tell the bomber
to choose to live.

To live to drink tea
and care for his mother
as her knees give out
and her fingers cramp.
The cramped fingers
of the bomber’s mother
playing in the generous mass
of her son’s hair again.

Sarah Browning is an associate fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies and the director of the Split This Rock poetry project.