Mizmor L'David Anthology 


Poetica Magazine: Contemporary Jewish Writing

For Chaya Under a Blanket of Earth
Dana Robbins

Tonight, I am an American

tourist having the most authentic

Israel experience of all

– Hamas missiles from Gaza.

In no real danger, in Tel Aviv,

I wait nervously for the siren,

strain to hear the whistle of incoming

bombs. Burrowed under too many

blankets, I strive to be casual

like an Israeli, not the soft American

I am. Sleepless and sweaty,

I count the cars that go about

their business undeterred, listen

to voices of people enjoying an

evening by the sea.

Yesterday, at my cousins’ table,

as they plied Steve and mewith

salmon and bourekas, I learned

that during WWII, the family fled

Kiev for Tashkent. And that Chaya,

my cousin’s grandmother, died there,

was buried under a blanket of earth

in a mass grave. I studied her

picture, this great grandmother

I never knew, she looked familiar,

my mother’s face in her. As I lie

in bed, I think of her, pray to be strong

for Chaya, strong enough for whatever

part in Jewish history is coming my way

this long restless night.

The Butcher
Dana Robbins

After my divorce, since I don’t drive, friends told me there was a kosher

butcher who would deliver to my neighborhood miles across Brooklyn.

On the phone, he asked no questions about me, didn’t care if I was religious

or even kosher. The next day, a Russian looking delivery guy rang my bell,

grunted, and handed me a brown bag of meat as if it was a drug drop.

Dave called me every week. “Mrs. Rob? This is Dave da butcheh.”

Rob was his version of Robbins. He called my boyfriend Mr. Rob,

even when a different boyfriend answered the phone. Do you want

a “hengah” he would ask, suggesting a hanger steak or “I have a deckle.”

I never did learn what a deckle was. Delicately, he referred to chicken

breasts as “cutlets.”

After I remarried, my husband and I visited Dave at his storefront,

in Sheepshead Bay. As we expected, it was a small shop with sweet

smelling sawdust on the floor. I had pictured a little guy with a newsboy cap

but Dave was handsome with perfect posture, neatly trimmed white hair.

Under his apron, he wore a spotless white shirt and tie, a gentleman

butcher. He was from Romania and came to the U.S. in the 1940s.

Of the butchery he survived, he didn’t speak.

He brought out fresh breaded chicken wings at no charge, made us eat them

right away while they were warm though it was eleven in the morning.

He was a man with a calling.