Miriam M. Kotzin
He was right to be suspicious.
Even now I am conscious of betrayal.
But what did he expect when he dared
me to take his challenge. “Write a poem
using what I say. Quote me, Miriam, if
you can. Shape a world of your own
making. I’ll stand in it laughing
at you the whole time. Why not
write about Edith Stein, a Jewish girl
who became a nun? They’re working
on her sainthood now.” Standing,
he looks cold. Yet his raincoat’s never
buttoned as though he’s always on
his way to someplace warmer.
At the bar he seems almost at home.
“My father-in-law was a saint,”
the end’s a certain martyrdom.
“His charity left no money.” When
he talks about his daughters he names
only the younger, and her carefully.
His voice fills with love like a jug
with cool milk in summer. His
older daughter’s gone, her name
changed willfully in a cloistered
order where all her art is given
over to God. Twice a year he
sees her through a grill. “I’m Jesuit
trained.” He’d left the seminary.
Had his daughter meant to be
a son following a father’s path, going
farther? How much patrimony? How
much vocation? How much unspoken love.
“Miriam,” he says again, “write about
Edith Stein, the nun, my daughter.”