Because my body
Because my body
like a jellyfish
or the mind
of a dangerous
I weigh the range
of the items
in my closet
it wants me
Tell my husband to come for me,
she says, pointing her finger to make sure
I can see she isnít vague, deluded. Tell him a crime
has been committed against me and that only he
can come to this place and release me from the bed
to which they chain me each night.†
What are you laughing at back there?
Heís not laughing, I say.†
Heís sympathizing with your plight.
Heís mocking me.† Donít mock.† You canít realize
how I suffer here.† I donít know why
I am being punished but I know I am innocent,
have done no harm to a single soul.†
you will go to my husband
today and tell him to come for me.
and then cannot bear
to visit his paralyzed body
or even return to her hospital bed.
And then she is dead
Her grave, with its long hyphen
between date of birth and death†
I think if I had to do it again I'd still go for her
all sugar and spice and walking through the forest
Even with the clearing in sight, the grandmother,
the hunter with his surgical instrument.
After all, part of my hunger was born from knowing what went with
the little red cap, the sweet cheeks, the simple simple smile.
I finished everything on my plate
as if God himself had served it up
and said, "No dessert
until you've eaten the last stringy bite
When I saw him chained up outside the gate
all sheepish and full of longing,
I just had to go over to pet him.
And he leaned against me
with the length of his whole bony trunk
to say, 'don't leave Ė see
I'm all alone here, and look how I'm smiling.'
And what do I know Ė it's been fifty years
since I've been through the forest
and I haven't worn red†
for the devil knows how long.
And I sat down on the steps
and shared my egg salad sandwich.
And I'll probably go back tomorrow with salami.
The enormous task of the past
weighing the bulk of papers,
sifting through ancient scraps,
manuscripts, sketches, proofs
of a previous civilization,
the weight crushing
for future fruition
burn it all
begin a new space
that generation had
She clings to me
at the undulations
of my breast
Then, like a toreador,
in my place
and I am
my outstretched fingers
and her body
and she and I and Abdel Wahab
Every morning my father makes porridge:
Twenty years have passed and not a day
goes by that I am not awakened
by the scrape of his wooden spoon
stirring the thickening meal.
will come to you to soon
nourishing in his old way, simmering
nutritious beginnings for each new dawn.
Sixty years after Auschwitz,
I am naked, covered with mud
and wrapped in plastic
waiting in a tiny tiled chamber
for the Russian aide
to release me Ė
a renewed woman.
If only my lost Aunt Batya
could see me now.
And then they wheeled him off to his new room
and I tagged behind the tiny entourage Ė
the Asian aide and the cousin I had forgotten Ė
wanting to ease the transition to his new life
as a crippled widower, to warm the bed, to tell him tales
of the courtyard with the flower,
of the time I heard he leapt from the thatched roof on a dare
and emerged without a scratch,
of the candle and the bread and the newspaper
his mother would carry up the stairs
at the end of a long and weary day.
They all came to me at once, the old stories,
and the way my motherís eyes would shine
when she remembered him,
that skinny red-headed mischief maker from Vilna
visiting the shetl for the summer.
And then they wheeled him into the elevator
and I thought of how placid he seemed,
how easy it was to say goodbye
and how impossible.
We donít know where the hell we are
when we get in the cab at the restaurant
to return to the empty dorms at this rural school.
Everything is dark, smelling richly of country
and there are 4 of us, Shamra from Canada,
and Alex from Wales and Luis from Teneriff.
They sit in the back together and I get in the front
with the old driver and his girlfriend, who looks
young, my age, maybe fifty, except for the teeth.†
Itís hard to tell. We know the ride is pretty straight,
nothing too curvy so it canít matter much
that we canít see where the hell weíre going
and the happy couple are content
to tell us tales of the Maine woods.
ďHell, I picked up a fare yesterday
in the middle of nowhereóhe warenít
from around here, all dressed up in a suit and tie,
like you people. And I took him to town,
told him not to get too drunk since
he seemed so tired, and then in the morning
the police call me and they say
heíd killed his girlfriend then himself
last night and I was the last man
to see him alive.† Thatíll be
four dollars even, please.Ē
Anywhere else Iíd suspect
he was conning me
but for Maine it seemed
like a fair price.
This is your sister
When you get a chance
Give me a call
Itís me again
I know youíre pissed
About what I said about your wife
Itís hard for me
To let go
Hi again, Moses
Nobodyís talking to me
Just because I dared
I donít want to bring it up
But Iím the same sister
Who saved your life
Out there on the Nile
Hell I risked
Thanks for the cure.
I owe you one.
It took years for them to meet.
Once a week she took the bus
from Mea Shearim and he
was the driver, looking
through the rear view mirror
at her long skirt, her averted glance.
Until he caught
And she stopped
getting on his bus
letting it pass by
without looking up
As if he was not
she was but waiting
And he made as if
he didnít care,
on his route
It was his style
used to the idea
were the ways of pleasantness
and all her paths
So she waited
of the errors
in his soul
And now they are married
and living in Tel Aviv
with two children
and her father does not speak to her
and her mother does not dare
and he is all
she clings to
He wets his bed at night and in the morning
runs to the junction to throw stones.† What
did he eat for breakfast?† Who washes his clothes
when he comes home at dusk full of dust and the sight
of his friends (from the same bench at school)
fallen in blood?† Behind him his uncles
are urging him on and shooting over his head
at soldiers still boys themselves. In the kitchen Mother
wrings her hands and takes comfort in the fact
that her child is her savior, alive or dead.
I too dream of you every night, child,
small and scrappy and hard to control,
determined to change the direction of generations,
full of disdain for the days just gone by,
sure you can make it by the force of your anger.
I dream of you not as your foe, but as one
who has heard screams like yours in the night
and do not want to reassure you with dreams of paradise
for martyrs, as one who has grown up with my own
enemies and bogeymen, have known children
holding up their hands at rifle point on the streets,
walk every day with brothers and sisters
who died before I was born.
And in my dreams I hold you and feed you and read you
a fairy tale, a bedtime story, still believing I can keep your fears
from growing up true, teaching you gently
from your folklore and mine, tucking you in
and promising to wake you
with a new morning.