Without A Hat

dedicated to Allen Cohen by Debra Grace Khattab

last fall I came into your apartment as a volunteer
wanting to give back
some of the solace
your editing of our 9/11 national conscience
gave me
when ties from my Muslim/Palestinian past
and my Jewish/American/Israeli present
pulled me in opposite directions
ripped my arms out and apart
until I was crucified
paralyzed before a television
that had no vision
and wouldn't shut up
that would not let me
move forward to find a future
because both of my hands were grimly holding on
to the husband I lost and the partners I gained

you and Clive pulled my hands together
let the tears I shed
slip into a song I could barely sing
and gave me a place in your book of hope

come dance with me Allen
let me sing hymns and whirl around as the world does
until both the living and dead are once again grateful
to have known you

I came to visit you through the rain
peace and quiet carpeting your rooms
as you clutched your pain close
unwilling to inflict or share it
I cooked you food
you gave me your Book Of Hats
smiling as you spoke of the Shlock Shop you wrote them
I helped you out of your wheelchair
and brought you the crutch for you to lean on

and now I need a crutch
all of us do
because you are gone
and we still need to lean on you

every time I saw you
the rope of your dark curling hair
was trying to escape
to free itself from containment
and you were too busy looking forward
you never noticed

your room had echoes of people everywhere
a photocollage on one wall
a father's day paper, handmade, on another
beautiful calligraphy fighting its way out of its art
and on the edges, framing it all
an explosion of colors
psychedelic as the Oracle you were the prophet for

come walk with me Allen
show me the last days of peace
you said were too complex
for a poem

I sat on the hospital bed in your room with you
watched the Family Dog Hep Cats Ball with you
and looked at you as your friends and family
colorful as the Oracle, the Haight and your whole life
spoke to you from the tv
until you were there too
looming above our need of you
joining the celebration of your life
in spite of the transplant, the cancer, the pain
barely noticing the hospital room, the gown, the i.v.
and you read your poem
wiping moisture off your glasses with your smile
until tears came into my eyes also

come sit with me Allen
though your pillow can no longer
cup your dreams
or nestle lover's sleeping heads

I had so little time with you
before illness gripped my family
week after weakened week
and I could no longer bring you solace
because you couldn't flee the flus
that held my family down through the hard winter
when I was fighting for breath
and had to use machines to help my lungs work
at the same time you were fighting for your life
as cell by cell the cancer tried to destroy
what it could never own

come rest with me Allen
because there is little rest for us
and the time to choose has come

I have made my choice
and it is to follow you
follow you down a road with no monuments
because your smile can never be captured in a statue
follow you over a track with few prizes
because your poems were meant as blankets for our
I will follow you up the mountainside
steep and filled with concrete byways
because there are hands reaching up
straining to touch at least your prophet's hem

straining to at least hear your words one more time
because you have left us
and we will always need men like you
to help us find the right hat and the right words
to stretch out those final days of peace
into an infinity filled with joy

©Debra Grace Khattab

Allen Cohen Tributes and Memories