Family Portrait, Guam, 1979

I know who you are. You are the girl of twenty, in that black and white photograph I held onto for years, that girl so beautiful she filled me with shame, just as she filled me with pride.

At the Mercy Meal

If this scene—these baskets of bread, this mediocre rice, that parking lot awash with light—is familiar to me from all the other funerals we’ve attended here, how much more familiar is it to him? He drags his fork across his plate and the room seems to collapse.

Forty-One Months

Our hospital in Jerusalem feels haunted. Not, as one might think, by the ghosts of former patients, but rather by the living…

71 Grams

You buy entirely too much at the store, but no matter—you will be on this diet for a while. At home, you unload each item with a quiet smile and feel a pinching like a tiny crab below your belly. You imagine a poppy seed nestling in, burrowing, seeking shelter within you, preparing to stay.

Anticipatory Grief

A compliment from the dying, or from the dead, is no faint praise. After Father Marcel died, he came to me in a dream and said, “I liked you very much.” Not the Great Commandment that he kept, his job description. Gloriously less. “I liked you very much.” Those words his imprimatur on my grief.


No wonder that now, on the streets of Lvov, one could see smiles on the faces looking out the windows. Theirs was a joy of expectation. The hour of revenge was coming! The Jews of Lvov already knew what had been going on in German-occupied Warsaw, Lodz, and Krakow. But, so far, for almost a week, only ominous silence ruled the deserted streets in Lvov.

If You Scared, Say You Scared

Every time I think I learn something about myself, about my body and how to best treat it or love it, my body tells me that control is a lie. I once read something that said, “fear is the feeling of losing control.” If you scared, say you scared. But saying it doesn’t make it go away.

Radon Gas and the Believers

But its impossible to go very far without seeing a sudden dark opening, the sloping, rotting framing of an abandoned mine entrance, or the colorful, dangerous scree sloping downhill: the remnant tailings from the ore processing that once happened here, spilling from a now filled-in shaft that one hundred years ago would have been busy with miners like so many ants at an anthill. 

Vital Signs

One thing you will feel, as fiercely as the contractions squeezing you now like a juicer, is that it will always be a different kind of loss for him. He might say, if he spoke about it, that he didn’t know this child. How can he mourn a person he didn’t even know?