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  • Split Screen, and: Infinitives
  • Charlotte Mandel (bio)

Split Screen

to bless   say kaddish   for severed finger shredof navel       phlegm of brain   purple that may bespleen   a child's toenail gleams   fish scale in the searchlight

eye in the palm of a rubber glove   king among the blindtongue torn from psalm of praise   b'eit hashem   how topick out the heart of the suicide  aquiver with heaven

women's faces a row of oval windows   framed in black headshawlsboys fisting shards of concrete   dodging broken pipes       water inarterial gush   bodies atwist on shattered glass

tank cannons                   eyeless in Gazamuezzin's allaah rises through dust   marketplace a streetto kiss       and kiss   in mourning

if I forget theeoh Jerusalemoh Bethlehem [End Page 32]


To remember the pastTo live the presentTo trust the futureAbba Kovner

I. To Remember The Past

I spread out my fingerspalm stamped firmand Mama traced the outlinebeneath her signatureon every letter she wrotein Yiddish to my grandfather. I knewhis picture-white beard,sad eyes beneaththe brim of a black hat,beside him, four uneasy children,in kneepants or waistless dresses,staring.Darkness of the photoprintlike a wall indented by their silences.

Too young to understandthey were my cousins, I never learnedtheir names.

By the time my hand outgrewmy mother's sheets of dime-store paperthe post office named Mielnicathinned into air. [End Page 33]

II. To Live The Present

"Reality" opens on showwhere performersentertain by outsufferingrivals in humiliationand gain a spoonful of money,a pocketful of fame.I theorize that actors and viewersconspire in superstitiousritual       (my mother would spit three times       to blind any evil eye)against image/textsof genocidal mutilationsscreened on CNN, newsprintedon the breakfast table.Is there a way to suspend disbeliefin a torn I.V.that dangles from a child's vein?

I wait for science to inventa vaccine to preventsweetness in the tastes of war.

III. To Trust The Future

Letters of light at Yad Vashemin English and Hebrew

    I WILL NOT DIE [End Page 34]

travel in eternal circleprojectedthrough a vent in the ceiling.Halogen lamps promiseunbroken sun.I stand in the exact centermy form slightly swayinglike a lever of control.

       Jewish music's dancing sadness       calls me from a room nearby-       lyrics of mamaloshen-my mother's tongue-       remind me of her song:               there once was a hound               who had sharp teeth               and used them to bite                           homm!       The song made me laugh       as she fed me spoonfuls of cereal.

I sway to keep the circle of words in orbit.I am known here. [End Page 35]

Charlotte Mandel

Charlotte Mandel's recent books of poetry include Sight Lines (Midmarch Arts) and two poem-novellas of feminist biblical revision-The Life of Mary and The Marriages of Jacob. As an independent scholar, she has published a series of articles on the role of cinema in the life and work of poet H. D. She teaches poetry writing at Barnard College Center for Research on Women.



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