SMALL SOLITUDES: LONELY SEARCH FOR MEANING

by Sophie Katz

She wrote this poem in memory of her mother, Chaya Esther Perelman, who died on November 22, 1947. When Sophie died on June 10, 2007, Joel Katz, found among her papers a famous Japanese wood block of Nicherin claming the seas on his way into exile. Yes, as the sutra says, being born of a good mother helps a son find the dharma,


My mother died. We opened up her bedside table
Just before the auction. Pills
For migraine, cough drops, a dusty comb,
Old pens that didn't work.
Scraps of cloth from old dresses,
A dozen paperbacks, high sounding titles
On poetry, metaphysics,
But mostly never read.
And papers
Hundreds of papers
Like leaves in an autumn storm,
and just as ragged.
Old bills with lines of poetry --
Her disembodied souls come into being
With no before or after.
Ten-cent notebooks
The home of daring thoughts on women's needs
Before Friedan or Greer.
Health diary of the children, and in the back,
A list of topics that would someday make
Great articles,
Never to be written.
On an old paper bag
A bold title in spectacular green ink
--Law of Diminishing Returns: See
How this affects the senses and motivation and inflation!!
She's gone now. The scraps she left behind still fluttering,
Piercing reminder of her lonely search for meaning.


This print, "On the waves at Kakuda on the way to Sado," depicts Nichiren calming a rough sea with a prayer on his way into exile. The first line of the Lotus Sutra (namu myôhô renge kyô) can be seen in black script on the surface of the water.

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