Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Tal, My Tal II

Tel Aviv dressed in white, the sea
her sequined scarf. I imagine how
I could as easily have stayed here, carved
out a life. Had a child named Tal like

the Tal from El Al, red head, tough and sweet
blushingly beautiful, Tal, my Tal,
early morning dew on bougainvillea.
I hear her calling me, whispering my name.

Waves wash the Tel Aviv coast, I see an
Ethiopian girl, thin as a stick,
jumping in and out of the water.
"Eema, count for me, see how long I stay under.

I see a blond of four, born in Frankfurt,
having a tea party with herself,
tiny cup, tiny pitcher, visiting grandpa.

A couple from Paris lotioning a
baby, placing him in inflated tub,
pushing him along with help of sea and sky.

All of us, like Yehuda, part here, part
there, glimpsing past, present, and
what may still be ours to have.

Russian River

A Russian river, maybe the Volga,
overhead, three ravens cross the wintery sky,
then swoop down on an ice glazed branch -
Three princes: two Muslim, one a Jew,
while earth's red shadow eclipses a satin moon.

We trudge up fifteen steps, freshly shoveled.
A lit candelabra welcomes us.
Inside guests gather. I greet paintings
from other walls, carpets from other planks,
piano hauled from home to home.

A gaggle of students huddle on a couch,
quacking, quacking, flipping cards
across a cedar chest, when down swoop -
Three princes: two Muslim, one a Jew,
while earth's red shadow eclipses a satin moon.

One Pakistani, one Afghani, one from Iran,
"These three always hang together," he says.
An Indian woman with diamond studs joins them,
also a one-legged lad; half Chinese, half white, and
Daniel, son of Survivors, his wife, Tova, their son, Levi.

All here to celebrate Andy's birthday
come round like a full moon.
Against all odds, he's alive.
The piano has traveled, as have I.
Raising my glass of Russian River, I toast
the heart - by far, the most ancient traveler.

I'm enraptured by the moon come round
for one more birthday in late February.
From an ice glazed branch, three ravens swoop down -
Three princes: two Muslim, one a Jew,
while earth's red shadow eclipses a satin moon.

Monday, January 29, 2018

The Stork Dropped Us

That night, we slept with distant cousins,
lost our luggage en route to Tel Aviv.
Shifra wasn't terribly glad to see us.
We gave her Nina Ricci from Air France.

"Best hit the road as soon as sun is up,"
Shifra says. "Start interviewing early."
First kibbutznick will not have my sister,
"Too young, too much responsibility."

Next agrees to take her; he's a Communist.
"Fine, even a girl of fourteen can work."
Orders Egged driver to drop us at Sde Yoav.
"Never heard of it, my friend," the driver shrugs.
"Cross the road from Negba, you know Negba."

By a weepy willow, he drops us off.
We trudge down a long dusty trail. With
little fanfare, they put us to clearing
a field, bending, tossing rocks of all sizes

into a pile. As I bend down yet again,
I see before me a flapping of wings.
A stork has opened her beak and dropped us
down on this God forsaken plot of earth.

For three days, we toil under the hot sun.
Watery blisters sprout on our arms and faces.
"Listen, sisters, this is not for you.
 Try making yourselves useful in the dining hall."

Blissfully, we mop. Out on back porch, we
peel potatoes seated on plastic tubs,
dice cucumbers, refill salt and pepper.
My sister says, "'Nuff of this drudgery.

I've gotta move, see what's going on here."
"You can't just go wandering off," I say.
"Yes, I can," she blithely replies.
She phones a family that I'd stayed with years

ago, they say they'll take her for a while.
Days pass, maybe weeks, I'm picking pears.
A strident sun roils the sky, when
in the distance, a silhouette, a woman

from the days of Abraham, our father,
balancing an urn on her head, walking
our way, only now, my sister's wearing a
dusty blue tank top and white Israeli sandals,

her smile victorious, satisfied, and
in that moment, the stork opens her beak
once more, and drops down a streak of red
envy that enters my heart.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Summer of Water Balloons II

That summer, we heaved water balloons at
each other. I was wearing undershirts, though
too hefty for them, I barely knew myself.

One of us was crouching over a facet,
another was knotting long ones and plump ones,
plump as a baby's belly. Then we'd lob

each other gleefully and with vengeance.
From high embankments, we'd lob innocent
shoppers, their sole sin, wheeling carts to cars.

That week, I was the only girl not asked
to Louise's sleepover. But then as
you'd have it, the boys needed my help.

I was to knock on the door - and they'd blast
her hall with scads of dripping balloons.
Later, she would upbraid me, saying,

"How dare you - you stained my mother's carpet."
 By then, my hurt had taken another turn.
Same night, I went bike riding with the boys.

My steed, an ancient racer, once grime and
webs in the dank cellar, now brought to life.
At last, I could escape.

We raced past the park, past the stone mouthed panthers
guarding the hollow, panthers roaring with
vengeance and glee. The sky was oiled an
olive black; moon slivered in its silver shell.

A sharp wind swept across my face and yes,
there was this one lanky Irish kid,
head of the pack, who'd been adopted by
a childless Jewish woman, whom I knew.

At times, he'd ride without holding the bars,
like treading water, or daring fate. Then
surprisingly, he rode to the place where
I was. We chatted - my heart was open.

Home, mom scolded me, "Out so late, four kids
still up, what were you thinking?" Like four ducklings,
I gathered them into the tub, scrubbed them down,
wrapped them in towels, smoothed their feathers.

Then, I opened the drawer to my pink
diary with its brass lock - I listed
the names of all the boys on the ride, and
wrote a few lines about the lanky Irish kid.

Wedding Cake II

A new bride at twenty four, married
on the rebound, I'd have to say.

We moved to a place on the wrong side of town.
Venetian blinds clung to the windows. I'd
replace them with curtains from Sears, both blue
and flowery, but too short for the windows -
like kids in hand-me-downs.

Three months go by. Ivan's asked to be
best man at his friend's wedding in St. Louis.
Then suddenly, his grandfather, a Pittsburgh
icon, dies and now Ivan has to choose:
funeral or wedding.

What goes 'round, comes 'round, Karma you'd call it.
Ivan makes his choice, and I acquiesce.
We leave the smokey city behind us
on the windy Thursday of Thanksgiving.
I'm glad for a break from my screeching
seventh graders.

I take along my basket with patterns and pins.
Howard and Ellen welcome us into
their drafty flat. Saturday, we'll all be
dancing at the wedding.

That night, trying to sleep, I hear a tip-tapping,
the undeniable tapping of roaches
on tented tin foil covering the turkey,
tip-tapping their own wedding dance.

Once home, two roaches boldly waltz
from my basket. They colonize.
The red-headed landlady refuses to help.

I'm cleaning on a Sunday afternoon.
Ivan has once again gone off with Bill
to chase trains, to shoot them comin' round a bend.

We'd stashed the plastic bride 'n groom from off
the wedding cake high up on a kitchen shelf.
As I swipe my rag, half dozen roaches scatter

north, south, east 'n west from the folds of her gown.
Stayed in that marriage nineteen long years.
Whys and wherefores, don't ask.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Into The Sea

Fleeing from Egypt,
Nachshon Ben Amichai was the first
to march into the Sea,

Before Moses with his staff,
before Aaron with his rod,
before Miriam with her timbral,
before the waves themselves
had parted.

Where did he get the chutzpah?
From where the nerve, the verve?
You have to wonder - when
it's so difficult, sometimes,
To make a simple decision.

Maybe he could hear
The Divine pounding
Pounding inside.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Does Anyone Have A Tissue?

"Does anyone have a tissue?",  asks Miriam.
Easy, straight forward, yet, for me, it's not
easy to ask for favors, even small ones.

My brother says, "Thank God I can receive love
from the birds." Not easy for him to be with
people, but birds are fine.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Frying Eggs on the Sidewalk

In Tucson, you can scorch your hand
on the handle of a car door,
or fry an egg on the sidewalk.

In New York, beware of black ice,
you can slip, not difficult at all,
take it from me.

So easy to get fried or iced,
a moment's inattention,
a willing suspension, and
all that misery - so unwanted.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

These Bare Limbs

Staring at trees has become my daily
ritual, deciding if a tree is male,
female, old young, strong, feeble,
intelligent, fearful.

Second day of January, out walking.
Will I meet a friend for my soul,
will we exchange names,

Will these bare limbs remind me
of someone from my past, someone
I haven't seen in years?

Will we continue our discourse
from long ago?

Monday, January 1, 2018

Threads of Saffron

I'd drizzled the sky with threads of saffron
to mark the new year. Air still very still,
only the tip tops of trees stirred and
my cheeks burned to a burnt sienna.

If only I had a baklava, I'd
traipse across the tundra like a Russian
peasant. I'd feed salt to spotted deer.
I'd drizzle the sky with threads of saffron.