II. From Water Born


Three grandkids arrive without my presence; for the fourth,
I’m slipped into a busy arena, father-to-be holding a list of manly appellations,
next to him a relaxed mid-wife, a nurse, and there’s Amy,

giddy and drugged, her legs spread, and there’s me, wedged between dread and
     meddling, terrified and mesmerized, hours adding up until
the suddenness of it, red hair, a flash of blood,

and out drops Zachary
and I say it’s a whole person.
I keep saying it, out loud, bold and all in caps, IT’S A WHOLE PERSON.

                                                                             — Florence Weinberger


for Kap

All things are from water born and into darkness grow.
Each to each its path to crawl, so many ways to go.
The hermit crab must leave its shell a larger shell to find.
The nautilus accretes its home, a chambered path to wind.
The Navajo his hogan leaves when one inside has died
Doors and windows boarded up, a hole poked through topside.
A pair of aging futurists must jettison their books
Their time has come, their race is run, no time for backward looks.

All things are from water born and into darkness grow.

A city burned, a lover lost, dwellings fall to ruin.
All aboard the midnight train while leaving’s opportune.
Does the hermit crab give thought while scuttling ahead?
Does Nautilus think ought of it while climbing his bunk bed?
What thinks the migrant Navajo while driving his last nail?
Does sealing ghosts within his hut prevent their piercing wail?
”What’s the point?” cries white-haired man, his wife beside him shaken.
”The rules have changed, our lives deranged, the furniture is taken.”

All things are from water born and into darkness grow.

I close the door sweet sleeping wife, I’ll not beside you lie
While words dance ‘round within my head, you dwell in my mind’s eye.
May the love that we do share suffuse our days with calm.
May the union of our souls be separation’s balm.
Our children sleep in their own rooms, toys not put away.
The game begins anew for them each and every day.
Each day presents a different stage, performance is a lark.
We hover here at curtain call and when the stage is dark.

All things are from water born and into darkness grow.
                                                                                —Michael Diamond



wake early
Exalt the living God*
stretch dough thinner
than you thought you could
There is no unity like His Oneness
but not to the point
of transparency
He has no form or body
press out circles
with a water glass
His holiness has no measure
place heaping spoon full
His flow of prophecy
at the center of every circle
Master to every creature
crimp edges
some will escape
To his treasured people
none like Moses will rise again

bake until plump and golden
His clear vision
allow to cool
the perfect pan
He will never change
His laws for all eternity

permit the contents to grow
against tension of sides
test with tines of fork
Our innermost secrets
He perceives the outcome
at the beginning
He will revive the dead

awaken the children
In abundant kindness
sing together
Blessed forever
His Name
the language
of my childhood
                         — Judy Belsky



He counts the number of the stars,
He calls them all by name.
Psalm 147: 4

Every night stars
light the sky
dew on a branch
tears on eyelashes

among all the stars
in the Yad Vashem sky
six-year-old cousin
Natan Kahn
may his memory be a blessing

son of Harry and Fanny Weinberg
grandson of Marta and Levi Kahn
nephew of Herbert and Lothar Kahn

Every night stars light the sky
And the people of the cities light lamps.

This night is all stars.*
                                  — Felice Miryam Kahn Zisken
*Leah Goldberg, Barak Baboker [Splendor in the Morning]



My mother’s time to muse about her foes
was Friday night, post-shul, Father back at desk,
each set of valiant pawns in eight-man rows,
our Maccabees, a battlefield of chess.

She called the bishops rabbis, slanting black
or white, the queen that roamed the board
an Esther prone to angles and to rook attacks
that toppled all to save the helpless lord.

She claimed the key was hunger for the fight,
the sacrifice for each embattled square
to camouflage triumphant end-game plans,

though she admitted love for little knights,
who leap and hover, turning in the air,
before they settle down to war-torn land.
                                                            — Richard Krohn




I gaze in silence as he concentrates,
Takes a white linen handkerchief from the inner pocket of his black suit
And spreads it carefully on the palm of his left hand.
In the center, a piece of carp in shades of black and gray.
With his right thumb and finger he pinches off a little piece from the little piece of carp
And slowly, carefully, places it on my palm, as if to say,
”I have placed something precious on the palm of your hand,
It is yours, take, eat.”

I look, my stomach contracts,
A feeling of nausea rises in the back of my throat,
In another minute I'll throw up!
I can't bring myself to put it in my mouth.

Suddenly the piece seems to move, opening a tiny mouth.
As I gaze at it as if hypnotized, the piece seems to be whispering:
”I am a small part of a great big gray-black carp that was cooked in a special pot in honor of the Sabbath.
In honor of the Rebbe and the tisch that he held for his Hasidim. I was cooked with great care.
On Shabbat I was present in the middle of the table, near the Rebbe and his followers.
I was happy, I was excited, I knew that now the Rebbe would say a blessing over me, and I would be a blessed fish.
The assembled followers would rise up, jostling each other, struggling, each Hasid wanting to receive a portion,
Each Hasid wanting to be blessed…
And your father made the effort, he sweated, he wanted to get a piece of the blessed carp.
He succeeded, he wrapped me in a clean white linen handkerchief, gently and reverently.”

I looked again at the revolting little piece of fish
And put it in my mouth

I place my hand on the white stone monument

                                                                   — Sari Kummer


respects to Countee Cullen

Once driving down the Eastern Shore,
my family on vacation
in search of patriotic lore,
the founding of our nation,

late ‘57, I was eight
and hungry, thinking chicken,
we spied a billboard of a plate
and stopped at Billy’s Kitchen.

A Jersey Jew, I’d never seen
a scrawl that said Whites Only —
my parents turned and got back in.
The silent car was lonely.

I saw the whole of Williamsburg
in costume for December.
Of all the past I tried to learn,
that sign’s what I remember.
                                             — Richard Krohn



All nine years of her
hesitated on the gangplank
willing the floor beneath
to finally steady
with promise of durability

looking on a bewildering world:
swarming sinewy bodies
towing and tying great ropes
toiling to secure
what had floated her here

what will you be
for me
over nine further winters?

for she could see no further
than the golden bridge across the bay;
know scent of sea
caress of wind
hair flying across eye and cheek;

a mother’s rescuing hand
leads her forward…
             —Vera Haldy-Regier



What is given to us by open hands
is not asked for.

What is given is placed in our care
at unexpected times when clouds are changing
from clowns to foxes.

Who expects an apple to fall on us
when we walk in the orchard?

Who expects a tree to sprout in our sandbox
when we are at school?

What is given leaves an open space
in the silence: a space for our ”Yes!”

(That insatiable three letter word,
the metaphor for God.)

What is given can be lost when we sleep
with a voiceless Raggedy Ann or
the Giant at the end of the Beanstalk.

It is when I walk alone, gifts are given.
They fill the footsteps with mint and
red-lipped poppies.

They appear on the path as freshly-lit fires,
as empty cocoons to rest in.

There was the lonely child in the empty house:
his coloring books full of scribbles
and misspelled words for family.

One day, a wise crow knocked at the door.

The lonely child answered.

Wise crow invited him to her nest.

The child saw eggs opening and life
without feathers emerging in that nest
of twigs and broken shells.

When wise crow returned the child
to his empty home, she left a single gift:
to recognize living in twigs and broken shells
is how one begins to sing and to be beautiful.

— James McGrath
Inspired by Margaret Atwood's ”The Hurt Child,” which may be found at https://theeverlastingfallout.com/hurt-child/



That path, before the wolf.
Basket full, red cape swinging
as you skipped your way to Grandma’s house
no matter the day, the season.
Then, you had reason to believe
a girl holds power in her life
if she is good and true and loving,
if she respects the trees and sky
that shines bright through their branches.

But all Time needs is one harsh moment
to trip you, rip your simple peace
to shredding threads of scarlet.
No matter you have said your prayers.
No matter you have helped your mother.
Ragged teeth wait where sweet flowers
seem a harmless happy gift,
and all you’ve known of who you are
disappears in one big bite.
                                       — Katharyn Howd Machan
*last line of a poem by Barbara Crooker



I am trying / to sell them the world.
—Maggie Smith, ”Good Bones”

I used to do the same damn thing:
I told them just so much,
Thus sold the hope the world would bring
This, that, or such and such.

But lately what I want to tell
Concerns the world to come,
Since here and now is some hard sell:
The hell we all hail from.
                                  — Jane Blanchard



Chaplain and officer
in formal uniform
immobile in front seat
of a dark sedan
navigating an unpaved road
leaving a contrail of dust
obscuring the rear view

of the farm woman
with the service flag
gently draped
over her forearm
her free fingers
carefully outlining
the gold star
                  — Philip Venzke



The chassen and his chaver
bellow songs in elation and pound the tish.
Those standing sing till their ears ring
and clap till their palms sting.

The chaver glances at the chassen
who meets his eyes and nods once.
They jump up and a throng gathers
to dance the chassen out of the room,
a bobbing knot of locked arms and thrashing legs,
to meet his kallah
to start his life.
                      —Ken Seide



I say the bracha and drink her tears,
the bracha for tears of jubilation,
not the one for tears of affliction.
I sip them from her cheeks and lick them off her eyelids.
They enter me
become part of me
give me sustenance.
                                 — Ken Seide



What is a man to do in the middle of the night?
His wife is asleep his children in bed he
tosses and turns between the sheets
tries to pass the darkness until
the light, counts his well-ordered possessions:
food in television, necromancers in the radio,
soothsayers in the newspapers, grass in the bread box
a whisper of prayer in the mobile phones
hundreds of unread books
unpaid bills, forms
unwritten scripts.

What is a man to do in the middle of the night?
It's already the second watch maybe the third
he no longer remembers where they are holding
no one will arrive suddenly in the night
and outside the buildings are similar.
He turns to look at the children
trying not to fall among the toys
there is food in the television in the reruns
he is tempted to turn on the gas
in the middle of the night to sear eggplants
once he read in a cookbook the instructions
for preparing lettuce: ”When you come to the heart,
just tear it with your hands.”
                                          — Amichai Chasson
translated from the Hebrew by Esther Cameron


to the memory of HFL

”The apple doesn't fall far from the tree—
unless it falls in a completely different orchard,”
observed my beloved friend, the apple of so many eyes,
who fell and then rose gloriously high
in an orchard far from the mother
who unaccountably produced her.
Why did all of the other apples
stay close to that tree
never growing up, never looking out,
so much like the parent
whose roots and tongue were always loose?

But this daughter thrives in her new orchard,
delighting in her unstunted, unstinting new space.
And sharing the fruit of what she learned the hard way
because of those she will not name.
                                                    — Heather Dubrow



Survival scars are sometimes seen.
A granddaughter, two plus pounds
eleven weeks premature, struggled.
Fluid flowed through IV tubes.
Rabbi gave her name as life, death,
death, life, sounded in our heads.

Currently she drapes a medical school
stethoscope around her adult shoulders.
Her fingers can feel thicker skin under
armpits once assaulted by equipment
reminders of aiding physical existence.
tick-tock, tick-tock
Some scars signify victory.
                                        — Lois Greene Stone



Didn’t we know when we wore black dresses
and ran through Saks Fifth Avenue
that it would all come to nothing.

When you held me close in your trenchcoat
kissed me then spun away
you didn’t know
what came after would come to nothing.

We didn’t know any of it
I’m going to live to be very old
and my memories will fade.
                                         — Lois Michal Unger



They’re closing up the lane that I’ve been in.
The signs say that I must slow down.
The traffic’s thick there, but shall make a place
for me until construction’s done.

It’s one thing when ‘two roads diverge.’ I’ve differed
and smelled some rubber burns en route,
not minding the sparseness of mass attention,
enjoying an abandon’s pursuit.

Nor am I irked re-learning to downshift
at the imminent convergence of a while
though I don’t even know whether the impasse
will last for leagues, forever, or a mile.

For coping’s coping. I can cope with crises.
Man’s an adapter — so am I,
and only fear, should my old lane reopen:
Will I shift back, or grow too slow to try?
                                                             — James B. Nicola



Heed well;
for my words are but a concept in your young mind.
We cannot pass through the barrier of time. I am

a memory that you do not know. Looking back
many years, we traveled seventy journeys around

this sun; seventy-one, counting heartbeats within our
mother’s womb. Remembering all the tears shed; all

the mountains scaled; all the sins buried deep.
I tell you, do not look back, do not fear the future,
do not give up hope. Your passion and your desires
are held in a secret trove; hidden from all but you

and me. They are not to be revealed to a hungry world,
ingesting each weary breath. Past-lives tumbling off the

edge of an eyeblink. It is too late for regrets. It is never
too late to change. We have shared a history that no

one else can share. We touched the sky, we sailed through
clouds. Icy oceans held us up, as we were about to sink.

We loved, we lost, we survived this far. We do not see
where we are going, but we know where we have been.

Listen, yes listen to the voice within. Your future is my past.
                                                                                    — Christine Tabaka


inspired by Robert Frost's ”Ghost House”

The house where he once lived still stands. Empty.
He wonders if its rooms yet remember
his son’s singing, his daughter’s laughter; if
pink and white azaleas even now line
the stone steps to purple lilacs planted
by his children for their mother; if red
roses, beneath which lies a much-loved dog
will bloom next spring. He sees the setting sun,
the coming darkness; aims memory's lamp
at twilight, carefully tending its wick.
                                                         —Gershon Ben-Avraham



Deep in my couch
of magnetic dust,
I am a bearded old man.
I pull out my last bundle
of memories beneath
my pillow for review.
What is left, old man,
cry solo in the dark.
Here is a small treasure chest
of crude diamonds, a glimpse
of white gold, charcoal,
fingers dipped in black tar.
I am a temple of worship with trinket dreams,
a tea kettle whistling ex-lovers boiling inside.
At dawn, shove them under, let me work.
We are all passengers traveling
on that train of the past —
senses, sins, errors, or omissions
deep in that couch.
                                  — Michael Lee Johnson



Looking at an hour glass with congested sand
An old man admires glass curves and a clock with no hands
It’s odd how the sand falls upon itself
Like pouring water into a pitcher, not knowing from where the rise
The mass builds without a single outstanding grain
It’s majestic Moroccan desert origin a tributary to itself
For him, the emptying funnel’s pace is exhausting
How will he finish in time that which his time masoned
He contemplates flipping his fate to a fuller bottom
Yet to lose its fullness, is to lose the oneness of life
The old man returns his eyes to his parchment
He dips his quill in the velvet ink and he’ll finish what he can
Or it will finish him, but he will leave something more than
             — Ophir J. Bitton



If I find my way back to the mountain blue
will I find you
standing hand on hip
watching clouds stalk the easy spring sky

If I find the house with the broken porch
with the soft chimes swaying like dancers in jewels
if I find the right road and the right turn
will anyone be home

I can wear the same colors gray and blue
white linen pants of centuries worn
the same hue
colors rushing through paths of June green and tumbling roses

The years are gone
my body sore and worn down
you in repose below the once tender ground
and I lost that landmark, the bluish mountain that guards my early heart.
                                                                                             — Susan Oleferuk



A graceful swirl
of Cabernet
dervishes me down
to Grandpas’ cellar
dark shrouded
sweaty barrels
stained red

A coquettish
of Chardonnay
I feel his
velvet eyes smile
through legs
dancing around
the glass

I sip
Pinot Noir
in Provence vineyard
Taste lacy flowers
with wild fruit

disco swirl
aeriated memories
Another sip
                      — Marianne Lyon



I will never forget the Seder tables of my childhood
with Grandpa Sam leading the service and
with the ubiquitous Chock Full O’Nuts Haggadah
at every plate.
”Chock Full O’Nuts is the heavenly coffee;
better coffee a millionaire’s money can’t buy.”
Wait a minute.
It wasn’t Chock Full O’Nuts.
It was Maxwell House.
I think it was Maxwell House.
It was definitely a coffee company.
I can see it:
It had a blue cover with a round silvery logo of the coffee company.
Maybe it was Chock Full O’Nuts.
I am 64 years old but age is only a number
and what really matters is how you feel
and I feel like I am about 104
and senile
and I must know which coffee company made our Haggadahs.
But why must I know?
                                    — Pesach Rotem



Every year without knowing it I have passed the day
When the last fires will wave to me . . .
                W.S. Merwin, ”For the Anniversary of My Death”

I carry the flesh that carries me
this far from the womb
and somewhere ahead
somewhere unknown.

Sunlight and shadow, rain
and after and earth tuning
about an impossible flaming.
In youth I imagined stepping
above gravity’s drag and
becoming god or some
lesser hero of fame.

0nly rarely did I feel time’s pursuit,
its reaching for my proud neck,
its hurrying me along as though
for. some purpose.

Now I sense mostly a ghost in the
family mirror, cloud shape
weightless and unsteady.
I no longer ignore the smirking
calendar or scoff at what
it offers.

I walk the unfamiliar corridors
of my years pausing at countless
closed doors not daring to open any,
uncertain of the one waiting,
my name in its grasp.
                               — Doug Bolling



The crematory smokestacks dominate the landscape.
Right next door on the same grounds
are Family Care Housing Facilities.
The seniors can view the smoke
from their windows.
Sometimes they can smell the burning.
                                                         — Vincent J. Tomeo


for Arnie on the loss of Ora

Let fly the petals of the dogwood tree
Their pent-up demand for earth met at last.
Elegant streamers of pink and white translucence
Gentle against the steel gray firmament,
A lilting motet of wind, sky and tree.

Letters that rise from the granite face
Of a funeral monument, grim reminder
That what’s past is past. The story of a teacher
Compelled to teach, his inner fire made manifest
By his Roman tormentors, Haninah ben Teradion
Died wrapped in the holy Torah. His eyes saw
Only sacred letters rising to the heavens.

Back home rose petals litter our front walk.
Beauty stalks those who would see her.
Two teachers memorialized in granite, one
Whose soul has flown its mortal coop
Some months past. The other, her husband who,
In one hundred twenty years, will join her, sits
And contemplates the beauty riven in stone.
                                                                — Michael Diamond



The fear of death is the fear of not
Having lived. Otherwise,
The mind is clean. Out comes
The moon again: death that cries

Does not exist, that drags its longings
In the sand, that, the killer,
Destroys eyes, and sets the wasp
To disembowel the caterpillar,

If you have lived, then why not sing?
How great is God that I have done
My little life, what a sky,
Whose stars are bright in unison.
                                                  — Yaacov David Shulman



If I had been the clock to tell your time,
You never had grown old, but as I see
You in this faded print—immune to Time
And change—you had remained, forever free
From Nature’s harsh necessities. But I—beside
You there—need only now to look into
My face to see how vainly we have tried
Withholding Nature’s payments, long past due.
And though we can conceal some change by slight
Of hand, yet there are things that do not change—
Those qualities of mind and heart that sight
Cannot confuse, nor seasons rearrange.
Your kindness, grace and charm of wit are such:
They are the soul of you Time cannot touch.
                                                                  — Frank Salvidio



This is the sound of four faces speaking:
Tears in an armchair. The riven father.
It was a lightning strike. Zai gezunt.
Taken together. An undifferentiated mass of sorrow.

Touch down lightly, O four-faced one,
The air around you is on fire and a thousand eyes
Turn at the fall of your foot.

Grief is a leonine thing, the noble creature bereaved
Drenches earth to wash away death’s stain.
Two fans to flutter in the mist before her eyes,
Two fans to drape the deadened body.

Hard mourning becomes the stone ox
Still in his traces, caught mid furrow
Collapsed on his fetlocks, hindquarters
Ground to a halt.

Brother eagle takes to ten thousand feet
Searching, searching for signs, for signifiers.
Two wings beating against the nothing,
Two pinions grasping air.

Bereavement is the mother of sorrows
Most human, the touch of earth itself.
Two words from the shiny black hollows of her eyes,
Two more from the ageless heart. Zai gezunt.
                                                                   — Michael Diamond


 To Section II