Waiting for a Sign


Language is my livelihood
And the purest thing we shared
Last night my father came to me
He said hi and my name

No nickname, no loving starter
Just hi
Which he rarely said in life
What with his intellect and his accent

But death is casual
Even colloquial
When stumbling at night
Over black coals and memory
No need for formalities

Or rituals that harden like cement
Below the dining room table
No need to call up privilege
Or age or gender

When a trembling lip, no sound
Can bring down a life
That allied forces and crumbling buildings
Never could

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This Poems Story

Irina Rich Langer teaches writing at New York University in New York City. Her high school English teacher, Frank McCourt, lit the flame of love for words, and her first poetry teacher, Alan Zizgler, reignited the spark. The death of her beloved father in 2015 inspired this poem.