- My Aunt Remembers
Whose desire, Mama, drove a fiddle like a bird out of a thicket and across the sea, thinking only of beautiful claws? Papa, who made arks of baling wire and balsa and tied up the Yiddish books and saved them from the dentures, when death was too young to sleep soundly, and life was too old to shine shoes? I mean there was a barbershop in the oldest part of town where the men had no hair, and the women slept alone. There was a dress shop for polka dots, and a tailor for holes. And the singing! Like lights going out at 7, the calm of a weather that is rain and rain, and the rain steams up on the inside of the houses, and the kids are made of baling wire and balsa. There’s nothing to worry about, and all the prophets have whales. I am certain there was a fireplace. I am sure there was morning. And stories about eggplant and chicken feet and pletzlach before the innocent were old, and the innocent were drunken, and were tried for being innocent again and again. They were tried like hyenas and like jackals. Their beards gave it away that they were goats. Their breasts gave it away that they were nannies. For this reason death came in its black trombovke. It came one day, and it came another, when Mama drove memory like a bird, and Papa twisted wire to make an ark, and all the sweet yesterdays climbed rock piles like goats. There was a bowlful of olives. Can’t you remember how they swallowed our eyes when the olives touched our tongues? [End Page 11]
Paul Nemser’s first book of poems, Taurus, was selected by Andrew Hudgins as winner of the 2011 New American Poetry Prize and will be published by New American Press in summer 2013. His chapbook, Tales of the Tetragrammaton, will be published by Mayapple Press in summer 2014. His poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in many magazines, among them AGNI, Blackbird, Fulcrum, Raritan, Redivider, and Third Coast. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.