You Didn’t Know Him, But Now That He’s Gone You Miss Him

On Monday, May 11, 2015, we buried our friend surrounded by a loving multitude of his family and friends. All of us had been deeply touched in one way or another by our unique relationships with him. Baruch ben Eliezer haKohen was one of the best men, one of the deepest and strongest men I’ve ever had the honor of knowing.

Baruch “Brad” Golani was a true fighter. A husband, father, and grandfather. A chassid. A Yid full of wisdom and a million stories. A giant presence.

People who’ve never met or known Brad Golani will miss him and not even know it. And their lives will be less for it.

Having suffered many years from Parkinson’s and cancer on top of that, he maintained a warrior spirit that will forever be an inspiration. He was supposed to have passed innumerable times. Innumerable times he fought back. Until the end, he fought. If anyone exemplified Dylan Thomas’ admonition, he was the man:

“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

I hope I can keep learning from his example.

This poem is for him.

Quiet the Drums


Your timbales
stand silent,
your bongos
your shakers,
rattles, claves,
your congas
and your dejembe
quiet all,
awed all,

all of us awed
by the space
of you
left in us,
parts of
your song
now gone.

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I’ve heard it said
of the Baal Shem Tov
that if we believe
every story
we’re fools,
but if we disbelieve
any story
we’re apikoros.

What better way
to know you
than to not
know you at all?
How can I capture
such a man in verse?

I’ve heard it said
of you that with blacks
you were black
that with Ricans
you were a Rican
that with Jews
you were a Jew —
no quotation marks necessary
if you consider
Brooklyn in the 60s.
From Ocean Hill, you were
and would forever remain
a Brownsville boy,
a saintly trickster,
a holy jester.

Oh, blessed brother,
how I’ll remember you
spittin tehillim
or tappin beats
on the skins,
rhythms you
ritmo you became,
Brooklyn born,
wild of the world,
breathing Latin music
from the NY clubs
to the city streets
to the wedding hall dance floor.

Through your wrecked body,
finding a groove
to sway from
your skeletal shoulders,
your pronounced hips,
and something happening
every time with the music —
something happening
in your eyes
seeing what no one could see,
hearing what no one could hear,
feeling harder and deeper than all of us —
feet moving time,
your fingertips up —

as if pulling gossamer threads
from the edge of shamayim —

consecrating a dance
out of the trembling
over your trembling
of your trembling
in the play,
in the sound,
in the love
of all that exists
as Oneness manifest,
glorious trembling before
the Almighty
was your dance,
pulling streams of tears
from my eyes as I watched,
mesmerized on the edge
of the dance floor
at Dalia’s wedding.

You quoted the words
of Dovid HaMelech
as if they were whispered
into your ears
by Moshiach himself.
Warrior, hero, tzadik —
immaculate intercessor
of merit and of good will —
I expect a band has gathered
and a floor has been set up
for the heavenly dance
of the sublime rhythm weavers
and a space on the stage
for you and your drums
to play and play
until that too
takes you away
and you dance
and dance
and dance.

Image used with permission from Dalia Golani.