(Dos Madres Press, 2022)
A book-length meditation on the final weeks of the poet’s mother, Wendy Lazer, Hank Lazer’s When the Time Comes offers a clear-eyed witnessing of the dissolving of a life. As in the Zen priest Joan Halifax’s book title, Being with Dying, Lazer’s poems attempt to do just that: to embrace and be with the mystery of his mother’s dying. Lazer tells portions of his mother’s richly active 90 years of life, though his primary attention is to the specific circumstances of her dying, especially the enigmatic syllable that his mother kept repeating. The initial long poem, “Deathwatch for My Mother, Wendy Lazer,” takes its place beside the long poem, “Deathwatch for My Father,” that Lazer wrote during the final months of his father’s life in 1995-96. “And Then,” the concluding section of When the Time Comes, asks about the value of words and poems in the face of the death of a loved one and wonders of what use or interest are poems about the death of someone else’s loved one. Lazer’s book of poems is a close-up study of a particular version of the pathway that all of us who enjoy the miracle of incarnation must go down. Compassion, community, acceptance, and peace remain possibilities by not turning away from the transition from alive to dead.