The following are poems that I had published last year in Parchment, an annual Canadian-Jewish literary journal. It is an honor to be included in this journal, as well as being given the opportunity to read my work at the book's launch, held in conjunction with Toronto's Jewish Book Fair.
This journal attracts well-known Canadian Jewish authors, poets, playwrights and essayists, and to find my name and work among theirs is a "kavod" for me.
To top that, I have been in the company of a special poet in this book, both last year and two years earlier, when both our poetry was included and we were both asked to read at the launch. This special poet is my now-nineteen-year-old niece, my brother's daughter. When her work was included in the book in 2002, she was the youngest ever to submit and be included in the book. Last year, she was away for the reading, and her maternal grandmother read my niece's poem. Both the delivery and the piece were very beautiful.
Yesterday I submitted to Parchment a couple of poems I wrote earlier this year. I hope that a few months from now, I can share them with you as being "published" poems.
In the meantime, read these; they are glances into the Israel I remember from my stay between October 1983-March 1984.
a stroke of ice-blue eye shadow here,
another stroke there.
sweep that pale peach blush up,
then draw it down.
light pink across the lower lover’s lips –
dab a cotton puff.
herzliya sunset over a windswept beach.
atop a girls’ religious seminary
high in the land of Sefad
a sign proclaims:
WE WANT MOSHIACH NOW.
DO A MITZVAH…AND ANOTHER.
inside the cold stone building
girls are huddled in a central hall,
grouped around an ancient-looking black telephone,
giggling, talking excitedly among themselves.
one girl holds the receiver to her ear,
waiting and listening.
“she’s on hold for a blessing from the rebbe,”
is explained to me when i cast a curious look.
suddenly a motion of hands waving. a hush.
“amen. thank you. goodbye.”
a collective smile.
“i got a blessing! i got a blessing!
the rebbe gave his blessings for a good shidduch!”
an impromptu hora is danced.
these future brides without their grooms.
such bare walls.
an old, chipped wooden wardrobe.
two single cots.
negelwasser basins wait patiently below each.
a naked bulb hangs low overhead.
accentuating, illuminating –
forgot to turn off the light before sundown.
no shabbos goys here.
i sleep a restless sleep.
climbing the darkened stairway
up to the fifth floor
on a friday night
i ponder the situation.
i, an outsider, have been invited
to be a guest at this stranger’s apartment.
perhaps not a stranger…?
perhaps, rather, a peer from days gone by,
i’ve been told.
i enter the apartment and blink with the
the room comes into focus.
a shabbos table
bedecked with white linen cloth, silverware
and fine china.
at one end sit two large round challahs
and a wine bottle
accompanied by a platter of gefilte fish and
dish of pink horseradish.
am i the shabbos queen, after all?
i look from where this booming voice has come
and see a robust man
seated at the other end of the table.
black beard blending with black jacket
and black hat askew on his head.
that face i don’t recognize,
but that voice i know.
and i am once again in a crowded,
fifth-grade schoolyard during recess…
“can i have some of your fritos?” you ask.