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September 13, 2014

The Respite We All Deserve

I've written more than once about anniversaries of losses on this blog. People around the world just shared the anniversary of 9/11. It's an anniversary that I believe will not be allowed to leave us. As there are others that preceded it. That's as it should be... and yet...we all need and deserve respites, even at the heights and depths of the experience of loss and its memory. That's exactly what Tasha Raella Chemel's poem gives us. I deeply appreciate how she wove that bit of respite into the poem and her life experience. I trust you will, too. 

Art by Kristin Hubick at RetroCafeArt


by Tasha Raella Chemel

On Sundays, my father would place magazines on his lap
and cut my finger- and toenails with his special scissors.
Then he would pretend that his nose
was the dial on a radio, 
and he would tell stories.
My favorite was about the queen bee
who rose to a power she did not want,
who died, gently, gently
when she knew her time was done.

Once, when my father came to kiss me goodnight,
he  saw a mosquito flitting near my cheek,
and he killed it with medical efficiency.
For some reason, when I imagined that mosquito’s
corpse, I thought of ribs shattered like old wood.
I heard the exertion of sickened lungs.
My sleep was disturbed by the knowledge
that my father had the power to kill.

My Granny Zip died the summer I was six.
I can still remember the perfume my mother wore
the day she left  for Johannesburg.
It smelled like sadness.

When my father broke the news
He did not plug up my mourning
with platitudes about the circle of life.
And my sadness felt safe.
Afterward, but only when I was ready,
he told other stories
about  South Africa,
about two black boys, Magugu and Matwetwe.
The mischief they got up to
was so ridiculous
that my smile emerged without my consent
and I knew it was all right
to stop thinking about death
for a while.


Tasha Raella Chemel is currently a master's candidate in Arts In Education at Harvard University. She enjoys reading critical theory, seeking out the perfect chai latte, and over-analyzing pop culture. She lives in Massachusetts.   Poem copyright Tasha Raella Chemel. All rights reserved.

Illustration by Kristin Hubik, all rights reserved. I was delighted to find this piece to go with Tasha's poem. Equally delighted to explore Kristin's website, blog, etc. for the first time. See more of her work on Facebook and at:,

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