In Memoriam: Andrea Moriah (1951–2012)
Andrea Moriah (née Sandler) was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1951. Over the course of her childhood the Sandler family moved every few years, from inner city to suburb, the East Coast of the U.S. to the Midwest: Pittsburgh, Rochester, Indianapolis…. This repeated childhood experience served to enhance Andi’s natural resilience, her ability to engage others, her ear for language and accent, and a sense of humor that was piercing, irreverent, and playful. After completing a B.A. in Journalism at the University of Missouri, she moved to Jerusalem in 1976. There she met painter Avner Moriah, whom she married in 1978, and with whom she raised three children, Nir, Tal, and Michal, while working in such fields as marketing and high tech. In 2007 Andi underwent a stem cell transplant for leukemia. In the course of her arduous recovery, she experienced a profound transformation on many levels, including her personal life. Over the next few years, until her untimely death from complications related to the transplant, Andi completed coursework in the Shaindy Rudoff Graduate Program in Creative Writing at Bar Ilan University, participated in poetry workshops and readings throughout the country, and rapidly became a recognized and much loved figure in English poetry circles in Israel.
We gratefully acknowledge Professor Linda Zisquit, poetry coordinator for the Graduate Program in Creative Writing and among its founders, and Andi’s thesis advisor. Zisquit, with the aid of Monroe Lerner and Wendy Sandler, compiled and edited Andrea Moriah’s manuscript, Recovery, from which our selection has been chosen. As Zisquit states: It is hard to believe that she came to poetry late, for what she brought with her was intellectually striking, hard-earned, yet seemingly natural…Even during our more intimate conversations we didn’t discuss her pain or illness unless it was part of her poetry. That was our text. Our source. Because it contained everything. A Talmudic poetry dialectic… On Tuesday June 19, 2012 Andrea Moriah was scheduled to present her final project on Seamus Heaney and his influence on her work for our last meeting of the semester. Instead I cancelled our class and, heartbroken, we attended her funeral… I hope that I have done justice to her profound and moving words in this thesis which was nearly completed when she died.
For Nicanor Parra
It seems that death has forgotten about him.
Camouflaged as he is by the holes in his sweater
and long beard — a moss-pocked rock draped in
hoar frost — as he goes about his daily business
of writing down what children say on scraps of paper
and in notebooks that find their way to shopkeepers
as payment by thieves and are returned to him
when he comes to their shops the next week
or month or even year because all his days
are the same in one way or another; building brush fires
in his doorway at dusk to light a house filled with guitars
and bright scarves left by mistresses and wives
gone now from his life or life in general
leaving him to write down whatever he pleases
for whomever it pleases, please it no one at all.
I like my mouth to fill with mist;
the fog to drench my body and clothes
so at dawn I drove to the lake
before the fish knew I was there
before the wind noticed my bulk
before the earth caught my scent
I set up my camp for a long morning of line casting
over and over and over into the lake.
I grabbed the hook and crushed a grub onto its point—
nice and bloody.
Then I steadied the pole in front of me
and let my pointer finger steady my aim.
I lifted the pole over my shoulder
then heaved it back up and stretched forward
unlatching the line which zipped toward the center of the lake
keeping on point until it plopped into the water
and the lead sinker sunk into the water
and the plastic bob marked my spot
and I waited and waited without moving
until the first “gloop” and tug on the line
I gave the line a small jerk upward to engage the hook
and reeled in the line, slowly, slowly, slowly
so as not to lose my balance between mist and time
or the fish.
Child Mummies of the Andes
wrapped in cloth
girded into a habit of apostasy
knees together feet pigeon-toed
fingers over eyes
mouth agape in a widening scream
swathed in linen
tied into a position of despair
ancient death drums rumbling up
and out a fleshless rib cage
hissing through ribbons of cloth
cloaked in wool
strapped into a condition of affliction
stale winds lilting through hollow reeds
perfect intact teeth
mouth half-open in mindless mid-prayer
smaller than all
tethered into a knock-kneed pose of reflection
legs gathered into chest at rest
parchment lids stretched
over dark eye holes
slack-mouthed contemplating nothing
We do this to assuage our gods
they tell us
how do you appease yours?
For a While There
For a while there in the hospital
I would wake up and open my eyes
to the dark or light, whatever was there.
I could move nothing else but my eyes.
I would wait to see if I felt anything.
I would wait to see if I was female or male.
If the morning nurse asked about bowel movements
or my breathing, I would be male. If the question was
if my skin itched or if my was mouth dry, I would be female.
The nurse didn’t know that these questions caused
an alignment of gender. It did not matter
to me which I would be.
It simply was a slight adjustment
as my eyes to the amount of light.