Earth now is your mother, as you were mine, my earth,
my sustenance and my strength,
and now without you I turn to your mother
and seek from her that I may meet you again
in rock and stone. Whisper to the stone,
I love you. Whisper to the rock, I found you.
Whisper to the earth, Mother, I have found her,
and I am safe and always have been.
David Ignatow (1914-1997) American Poet, “Kaddish”
“This is part of a poem titled “Kaddish” by David Ignatow. Kaddish is a traditional Jewish prayer for the dead. In the poem, he is in his 70s and is sitting in the hospital next to his mother. She’s under an oxygen tent and she’s passing and he’s talking about how he’s becoming alone. At the end of the poem he says, ‘Whisper to the earth, Mother, I have found her, and I am safe and always have been.’
I always remember those last words, ‘I am safe and I always have been’ because this is not the safety of a 20 year old person who is just learning the world is dangerous and you can get abused, and you can get violated, and you can get assaulted, and you can get unfairly treated. It’s not that safety. It’s the safety of something very profound that, in a way some part of us can never get touched; It never gets hurt. As a psychotherapist I don’t say that to a person who says ‘I got hurt.’ I don’t say, ‘oh, you’re always safe.’ That would be dumb, insensitive, and wrongheaded. But at some point you can, in your work on yourself spiritually and psychologically – usually it’s a mixture of those – get in touch with something that’s safe and always has been. Ignatow gets in touch with that on his mother’s deathbed and he says ‘Whisper to the stone, I love you.’ He finds something else, ‘I am safe and always been safe.’ To know that experience even for a moment, that’s really precious.”
David Bedrick, JD, DIPL PW
and author of Revisioning Activism:
Bringing Depth, Dialogue and Diversity
to Individual and Social Change