Fear Is Like This

New millennium
September 11

affect your state
of mind
make you more

the future
through a lens of fear
takes the life
of life

is lost
the body
the heart


Dusk, a rain-slicked tarmac, a coffin
draped in a blue and white flag, not
how we imagined your homecoming.

The crew photographed the tops of thousands
of thunderstorms rumbling through
the atmosphere each hour, recorded the first

images of a doughnut-shaped electric glow
above a thunderstorm, an elf, lasting less
than a millisecond, sent back clear pictures

of sprites, cloud to space lightning, gathering data
on plumes of dust and other particles blown
from the Sahara by storms before being carried off

by high winds. Over California, the radio transmissions
went dead, no blips on the radar screen, a streaking
light appeared in the atmosphere, then lights, each in a different

direction, broke off, as you came hurtling back to earth.
The Torah hidden in Bergen Belsen, the drawing
by a boy in Theresienstadt of what the earth

would look like from the moon, all ash.
And you, ash, bits of charred jaw bone, your air force flag
with the Star of David in the middle, are found.

Without your consent you are born, without your consent you die.
God hides his face.

Continue reading the poems -->

When no one is home, I open the box
and take one out, one of the five
white linen sheets my father
brings down from the attic
to hang on the walls of the sukkah.

It is still white and the fabric still strong.
At the bottom are geometric patterns and the initials
RK embroidered in white
by my father's sister Ruth at 15.
The patterns look as if they were stitched yesterday.

My father brought the sheets with him
to America, while Ruth stayed behind, waiting
for her visa. On the edges

she made buttonholes, the sheets to become the cover
for her comforter, made from the finest goose down,
that she would take to her marriage, and

sitting in her bridal chair like a queen,
I am dancing in front of her,
fulfilling the mitzvah to make the bride and groom happy,
and she is,

and we dance together,
smiling and laughing, dancing round and round,
until we are out of breath, until I am alone, whirling
in circles, so dizzy I can no longer stand.

Learning To Swim

A father must teach his child to swim in water.
What is the reason? Her life may depend on it.

--Babylonian Talmud: Kiddushin 30b

She was a small girl and quiet,
so she didn't say anything
when Sandy's mother told her not to tell anyone
she was Jewish, as she climbed into the back
seat of their wood-paneled station wagon,
her bathing suit on under her clothes.

She can't tell you anything about the club
and she doesn't remember if she went swimming,
but she knows she was embarrassed and
Sandy's mother thought she was being nice,
taking her to a country club.

She doesn't think she said anything
when she got out of the car, as they asked her
if she had a nice time, but she
does remember their smiles and that she
never went to their club again.

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