Mizmor L'David Anthology 

 


Poetica Magazine, Contemporary Jewish Writing


Terri Paul writes about the Jewish immigrant experience. Her award-winning novel GLASS HEARTS is a fictional account of how her mother's family came to America after the Great War. This poem is based on a childhood memory. Please visit her website: https://terri-paul.

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The Other Side of The Wall
Terri Paul

My three-year-old mind craves the Russian
family living beyond the brick
and mortar separating my house
from the wooded lot next door.
No one there speaks English, just
Hebrew blessings over Sabbath candles
in heavy brass sticks on the kitchen table.

I hear those distant voices on winter mornings,
after my sister yells at me to stop talking
to myself in garbled Yiddish and slams
the back door on her way to school.
Or my mother sends me to bed
because I don’t eat my lunch, while
her people starve in the old country.

Upstairs, I pretend to nap with
my eyes wide open and my mouth full
of “Baruch A-tah Ado-nai,” while a woman
in a heavy apron, the grandmother I know only
through pictures on our mantle, cups her hands
over the flames and rocks back and forth.
“Bobbe!” I cry. She doesn’t hear me.

But her younger daughter, my Aunt Rose,
who cheats at gin rummy and wears a green
wool sweater like mine, kicks off her shoes
and smiles at me, ready to trade the soft
quiet of her early days across the ocean
for the unruly chatter and endless questions
on my side of the unyielding wall.