Poetica Magazine

Poetica Magazine

Feast of Tabernacles

by Nancy Naomi Carlson


Through the windswept din

in her head my mother hears

Piaf’s La Vie en Rose,

Indira Gandhi’s chitchat

sharing photos of grandchildren,

the Concorde’s next-to-last rattle,

but never Hebrew blessings,

not having learned to pray,

to keep kosher or take meals

in a tabernacle—temporary shelters

fragile as flesh—housing

our memories, fragile as faith itself.


My mother is caught in a sandstorm

swirl, eyes burning—

why are those bodies sprawled

across the desert?—calls for help

as dreams overtake her waking

and waking overtakes her dreams.

Gone the names for days and months,

but not my voice on the phone

as I call her to turn to the trees

and their yellowing leaves,

small tabs on this season

when my neighbors carouse

in huts strung makeshift with gourds

to remind them of sukkahs

our ancestors pitched to keep

the Sinai sun at bay.


Lost in the sands of her wandering

my mother’s soles burn

in the wilderness

now that fever has gripped her body,

forced her from her own bed

with purple and crimson yarn

to quarantine—white curtains limp

against white walls, dawns

skipping by like lambs.