©Andrena Zawinski, 2012

The earth trembled the night my father died,
Whispering his final melancholy song;
Standing at his solemn graveside, we cried.

While sirens seared the morn we sighed,
Praying the aftershocks would not be strong:
The earth trembled the night my father died.

The rabbi’s chants renewed our mourners’ pride
Erasing fears of countless deaths so wrong.
Standing at his solemn graveside, we cried.

As handfuls of dirt filled the grave’s inside,
Wiping our tears, we watched the throng.
The earth trembled the night my father died.

Oh, mother, thankfully you waited by my side
As Death took one who scraped along.
Standing at his solemn graveside, we cried.

To Bakersfield we nervously made the ride
Where the quake’s wrath reigned so strong.
Oh, yes, the earth trembled the night he died.

And now at my father’s grave I stand alone
Humming his Yiddish song.

©Ruby Bernstein, 2012
Ruby Bernstein’s father William died on July 21, 1952, the morning of Bakersfield, California’s 7.7 earthquake. Ruby remembers the eerie chimes reverberating at her home in Santa Maria, 200 miles away. Ruby’s parents lived in Bakersfield for several Depression years; Ruby, BAWP ’74, was born there.

5 Responses to “For My Father by Ruby Bernstein”

  1. jane juska Says:

    a wonderful poem, Ruby, genuinely moving.

    1. Thanks, Jane. I soon may borrow your title “After the Fall.” Doctors chant,”Don’t fall, Ruby.” Life changing experience.I’m
      out of confinement now, however, driving.

      Let’s meet for our annual wine before I turn the big 80!!


      ps bumped intoAnn Cameron yesterday at Word For Word. Lovely woman;haven’t seen her for half-century,maybe.

  2. Judy Bebelaar Says:

    The sounds add to the solemnity – strong images, strong feeling – and all within the structure of a villanelle! I’m inspired to try one, Ruby!


  3. Judy Juanita Says:

    Wonderful how the heart is grasping and straining toward the earth and the father gone such a short time in the poem’s narrative yet such a long while for the poet. Love it, Ruby, and love the working in form. Glad to hear you’re back driving. So essential, isn’t it? Be well.

  4. tony giffone Says:


    As always I love your writing, but in the past I’ve always read your prose pieces. I think this is the first poem I’ve read that you’ve written … it’s moving and haunting.

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