SWWIM publishes, celebrates, & promotes women, women-identifying & Femme-presenting writers through a Miami-based reading series & the online poetry journal SWWIM Every Day.

The Wake by Karen Greenbaum-Maya

He’s in active dying, his family texted.

They held the phone under his comatose ear,

I said my good-bye, I wished him release.

I watched the rest of the day, then all night.

Still nothing, so finally I slept. Wakened

out of my second sleep by the call

carrying the hospital’s stinging perfume,

the sign everyone knows.


They’d asked me what music he’d loved.

I’d told them: The Great Fugue,

the Solemn Little Mass,

the Eroïca. They’d found them all

and played him out sweetly. It could do no harm.

His breath slowed, wafted out.

Was it a ritard or finally a fermata,

timed for the turn of the Funeral March.


To help out, I’d called the Institute where he’d trained,

I gave them the news.

How odd, the director told me,

I was just looking over the analysts.

His face is on my screen right now.


As offering, I made bagels the way he’d liked,

with double salt, double honey,

extra gluten for extra chew.

I’d proofed the yeast,

I’d checked the temperature,

I’d done everything I could,

but they just weren’t going to rise.

Karen Greenbaum-Maya, retired clinical psychologist, German major, two-time Pushcart nominee and photographer, no longer lives for Art but still thinks about it. Her work appears in venues including Sow’s Ear, Comstock Poetry Review, Off the Coast, Otoliths, Naugatuck, and Measure. Kattywompus Press publishes her two chapbooks, Burrowing Song and Eggs Satori. Kelsay Books publishes her book-length collection, The Book of Knots and Their Untying. She co-hosts Fourth Sundays, a poetry series in Claremont, California.

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