Poetica Magazine

Poetica Magazine

I’m Preparing My Body for Your Birth


the way the Hevra Kadisha prepares

the dead for burial. I cut

my nails: thumb pinky middle-

finger pointer ring-

finger. I squeeze


my wedding band off that swollen

stump. I anoint my massive

belly with lilac oil and watch the ghost

of your fist move across me

a purple current


in that vast ocean I contain. Do the dead flutter

so, too? I squat

to stretch my pelvis, as narrow

as the ancient gates

of the Old City


of Jerusalem, cool and wet, pilgrims

and peddlers coming going

squeezing past

each other and the unseen

spirits,


whose bodies, scrubbed and wrapped

in white as mine is now, the towel barely

stretching round,

are lowered down

as they rise up--up--


I’m preparing my body to bear

down so you may rise, your

cry as wild and haunting

as a Shofar’s

so that the walls

that separate you from me

the living from the dead

the holy from the profane

come crashing

crashing down.


Visiting the Iniquity Upon the Children, 

Unto the Third and Fourth Generation of Them

          (in memory of Anita Silverman)


 by Maya Bernstein


When he was a boy, my husband told me,

he devoured pears: skin, flesh, core, seeds.

But not the stems, which he brought to his mother

(whose leg was left mangled by polio in a DP camp

in Vienna, 1949) as a gift. He believed they delighted her.

But it was he who delighted her, her hungry son.

              I think I hear her coming now!


She was two when they left Debrecen by foot

on Passover night. Her mother drugged her

so she wouldn’t ask the Four Questions. Her mother

who had survived with Christian papers in a Beauty Parlor

in Budapest, cutting the German soldiers’ beards, dancing

with the German soldiers’ groping hands, clopping feet.

They assumed her cheeks were wet with pleasure

but her tears were for Tokaj, for yellow muscats, for her mother

             I think I hear her coming now!


rotten on the vine. A boy, he didn’t understand.

But knew enough to try to make his mother glad.

He offered her his stems and she held out her hand,

again, again, wove stem with stem until they were the length

of her lame leg. She leaned on that wobbly cane. She kept

taking step after step after step.

             I think I hear her coming now!




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