Epithanatophobia

Don’t ever say
I didn’t see it
coming. Put it

on my gravestone:
I was prepared.  
I’ve been waiting

for death’s familiar
approach since I
was a child’s

ear to the manic
telling and retelling
of my history.  

Not even ten
when my mother’s
eyes widened to warn

be afraid, little one,
as she spun the tale
of Jo Goldenberg’s deli

strewn with bodies,
bombed out, how blood
glass and ash glazed

the cobblestone
walkway we stood on
a decade later.  

I tried to choke
down the latkes,
the corned beef,

framed news stories
about the victims
watching me labor.

My mother told and
retold our family perils—
Jews encamped

for slaughter, terror
even for survivors—
as if to condition

a need to see death
nearing, to speak
my killer’s name

if they’ll never know
mine. When their
gazeless eyes glide

past my own, when
I become another
husk for the heap,

what will it mean
that I was so
ready to die?  

September 19, 2022
  •  
Poetry
Ethan Milner

Ethan Milner is a writer and a licensed clinical social worker in Oregon, practicing psychotherapy at a school for youth with special needs. His work has most recently appeared in Memoir Mixtapes, the Scores (UK), and Yes Poetry. He can be found tweeting @confident_memes and at ethanwritten.com.

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