Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Visit From a Peacock

Dear mummy lay dying in the jungle
amidst huge frauds and primordial flowers;
birds of paradise in robes of orange and red,
flowering jasmine, hibiscus, tuberose,  
and the waving leaves of banana trees.

She lived not far from my brother, but in
her own dwelling. On the morning of her
last day of life, I tried to feed her, but
she swallowed only one spoon of applesauce,
only three sips of water.

A peacock slept outside Mummy's room,
always on the same branch of the same tree.
Defiantly, that morning, he crossed the
threshold of her room and spreading his feathers
of indigo, turquoise, and bronze, he

approached her bed. Then circling the room,
screeched his sorrowful song, and was gone.
Later, the hospice nurses arrived. They 
washed Mummy, and as they were sweeping her
back and forth in the sheets, the nurse alerted

me that her last breaths were drawing near.
I sat on the bed and held Mummy's forehead
and shoulder. At that indelible moment,
my brother entered the room. I could see
grief wrinkled onto his face.

For all the fury of her life, Mummy
left smoothly and with a radiance -"Goodbye
my sweetheart, my friend," I said. The peacock
had also managed to say his goodbye.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Summer of Water Balloons !!!

I was still wearing undershirts,
though too hefty for them. It was
a summer of water balloons.

One of us would crouch over a faucet,
Another would knot thin ones and plump ones,
plump as a baby's belly. Then we'd lob each other
gleefully and with vengeance.

From a wall, we'd drop our watery bombs
on innocent shoppers wheeling carts
in the blazing sun.

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

I was to merely knock on the door, and
they'd bombard her hall with dripping balloons.
Later, she would upbraid me saying -
"How dare you, you stained my mother's carpet."

By then, my heart 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.

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,
the 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.

At times, he'd ride not holding onto the bars,
like treading water or daring fate. Then,
surprisingly, he rode to the place where
I was - my heart was open.

Back home, my mom squawked,
"Out so late, the four little kids
are still awake. What were you thinking?"

Like four ducklings, I dropped them in 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,

Friday, February 16, 2018


No time to think of bread,
how then timbrels?

We were women believing in wonder,
in miracles, believing in life.

Crossing the waves, no longer slaves,
Crossing the deep, with joy did we weep,
Crossing the sea, craving ecstasy.

Gave timbrels to shaking, felt earth quaking,
Gave timbrels to ringing, we began singing,
a great and wondrous song to God.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

His Voice

You never call, you never write.
Well yes, you text, but you never call.

He's scared his voice will reveal misery
Decades, it will take decades
to work through all this.

We've all been there, torn asunder
from our souls.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018


We walked among the violet hills,
she'd point to gull, to rock, to stone,
or to a violet sun ablaze,
and then I'd feel not so alone.
And when the trees called out their song,
I'd feel their tender call of glee,
I walked with grandma, my dear pal,
and somewhere, a song sang in me.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Grandma Josie ii

At sunset, we walked, the two of us.
With cane in hand, she'd point to a stone,
I'd dust it and drop it in my bag.

Once, she swore she'd seen a hissing snake
at the mouth of a cave. So scared,
swore she'd run all the way down the hill.
It was hard to fathom her running.
I'd seen her mainly in slow motion,
at sink or stove stirring mushroom
barley soup or kasha with noodles.

For a tiny moment, I could
almost imagine her running,
in the next breath, it was
unimaginable again.

My heart ached, how I never
wanted anything to happen to her,
not from a hissing snake,
not God-forbid from anything.

That day, I spilled shiny pebbles,
smooth stones and craggy stones
upon the wooden floor.

With cane in hand,
she'd pointed to each stone,
just for me and for me alone.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Gifts from the Sea

I went down to a turquoise sea,
because I felt so very bleak,
and flapped and spread a turquoise cloth,
and rubbed some oil upon my cheek,
And when green waves were rolling in,
and monstrous waves were rushing loud,
I poured some oil upon my arms
and gazed up at a vagrant cloud.

When I had dipped into the sea,
I tried to shield myself from cold,
but now I felt a rapturous glee,
and now I felt I could be bold.
But jelly fish were hovering near,
they aimed their harsh harpoons at me,
and left me tingling like a bell,
then faded through the violent sea.

Though I was gifted by the sea
with prickly sting and reddened sting,
I will accept this raspy pain,
like gull accepts its ravished wing.
And I will walk along the shore,
and watch waves dance and dance away,
the violet passage of the clouds
the golden passage of the day.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Grandma Josie

I loved to walk with Grandma Josie,
her cheeks as red as any posy.

With cane in hand, she'd point to a stone
that was meant for me, and for me alone.

I'd drop it in my bag with glee,
a sacred treasure, just for me.

Once, swore she'd seen an ugly knave
rearing his head from mouth of cave.

She'd come upon a hissing snake,
Oh, how it made my small heart ache.

Swore she'd run so fast that day,
like a bear in heat, she'd hav'ta say.

Now grandma hobbled and wobbled, no lie -
could never picture her on the fly.

So I wiggled and giggled; then I swore,
infuriating grandma all the more.

Exasperated, she raised up her cane,
said of her existence, I was the bane.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

For Ten Different Reasons

"Not something my parents would have done
for ten different reasons,"  he said.

Chicks galore, in all colors, lime, blue, pink,
chirping away under florescent light,
we'd buy them at Woolworths every Easter.

Being Jewish did not make this taboo
for my parents, but for his - no way.
Later, our chicks shed their dyed feathers.

Released into the living room, they'd fly
round in gay abandon - one chick, Snowy,
ever perching on my brother's shoulder.

With sticky seeds, feathers, spilled water, things
could get messy. Another reason his parents
would have said, "No thanks." Not to mention,
you could pick up all kinds of disease.

We grew up wild and wooly, helping my
dad run his business out of the house, but
we were granted freedom, like buying chicks

at Woolworths. As Frost said of his road,
"And that has made all the difference."

Lillikoi, Oh My Joy

I went down my love to stir
in gardens of spice and myhrr.
Lillkoi, oh my joy,
Guava, my darlin'.

Underneath the banyan tree,
there he slept so peacefully.
Papaya, oohlala,
Guava, my darlin'.

It was in the mornin' mist,
when we first began to kiss.
Banana, nanana
Guava, my darlin'.

Do ya, do ya love me true,
Do ya swear it through and through?
Prickly pear, do I dare?
Guava, my darlin.

Reframing the Story

Joseph umasked himself. Drawing them close, he said,
"I am Joseph, your brother. Does my father still live?"
His brothers stood there, stunned, speechless,
ridden with guilt.

Joseph was desperate to reframe things.
He told them that they may have meant him harm,
but all along, God had another plan in mind.
All along, God was figuring out a

way to to get a jump start in Egypt, so
that when famine came, they'd have a way to
survive. That's the narrative Joseph spun,
reframing, so his family could knit together,

and move on. If Joseph, thrown into a
pit by his brothers and sold into
slavery, could reframe a story; then
anyone can; surely the two of us.

A Strawberry

When Grandpa Morris was a boy,
he'd go off to the sun-crazed fields
to seed and plough, and if he saw
a strawberry, ripe and ready,

he'd pick it, cradle it in his
hands when not at work, a gift for
mother. At sunset, he'd present
the strawberry for her sweet smile.

When he came to these golden shores,
he'd patch elbows of his sweaters,
and send dollars back home wrapped in
sheets of carbon paper to fool

the censors. This, before all turned
to ash, except for one niece. Tales
told mouth to mouth of man and boy,
of strawberry and sweater.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Take Her To Saks II

When Blanche Bauman of Beverley Hills strolled
into the room, all heads turned. She crossed her
long legs, and gave the judge her full attention.

There I was at the national Bible contest,
struggling to answer the next question
for the crusty judge, when Blanche strolled in

full of razzle dazzle. Blanche, Mom's second
cousin, visiting New York, figured she'd
swing by, and lend her support.

That day, I didn't win the grand prize,
a trip to Israel, I came in third which
was kinda' sad, but I'd live with it.

"Jean, why didn't you dress her up more? Then
maybe the judges would've noticed her more."
Blanche inquired of my Mom.

Her words rebounded inside me. In my
cotton black suit and white blouse, I felt like
a church mouse in need of a meal, scrounging

around for a morsel here, a morsel there.
I'd been holed up in an attic, studying
away. dutifully prim and proper.

Next day, Mom confessed that we'd traipsed around
all day and found nothing for my big party.
"Jean, what's the problem? Take her to Saks."

Never saw Blanche after that day, but Blanche,
in her silks and alligator heels, had
advocated for me and opened a certain door.

Fishke The Lame

Fishke, the lame, schlepped coals, lugged water,
guarded clothing in his shtetle bathhouse,
begged for bread if he had to. Behold one day,

he met his hunchback girl, they talked endlessly.
She'd been abandoned as a child, then
abducted by a gang of thieves who beat
her, and set her to begging for them.

His hunchback girl would look at Fishke with
such tenderness that he said to himself,
"Fishke, you are not alone in the world, no
you are not, not anymore."

"She sees you, she sees your pain,
You see her, her pain, as well.
Enough to bring two souls
together and so be glad."