poems

 

A Spirit Heist

My front lawn has ghost tracks

toeprint indents from phantom feet 

and limbs, a remembrance—

Ding-dong ditched and vanished

in poltergeist play,  

veered diagonal from front door 

to cul-de-sac, 

off the pathway we tiled

for propper disappearing acts. 

 

A presence left his impression 

in landscaped lines. 

 

A street-facing spirit, 

a front garden ghoul. 

Here, and then gone—

His memory turned our mulch. 

 

Did our perennials catch 

under his toenails,

a nursery relic he collects 

from one trespassing to the next? 

Brooklyn Bridge

Lives I watch 

from this twenty-second story 

are yoga mats on adjacent rooftops, 

sprawled, sweat-drenched and pollen-dusted

8 AM Thursday flow

to a playlist of Brooklyn traffic

her body elastic, a figurine from where I peer, 

stretching into a workday morning 

a bridge, 

a salutation. 

 

From this twenty-second story, 

limbs rush 

to catch trains to downtown

or friends a block down 

or rush for the rushing,

this New York thrill, 

these high-gear streets. 

Bodies and buses 

rev to match a city’s pace

kinetic energy from underground trains 

quake the pavement, 

spur the wheels of a city bike 

into forward motion. 

 

I feel it in my toes, from this twenty-second story. 

 

Watching lives in the way 

morning dew glistens on concrete,

and lives in terrace gardens, plastic grass, 

lives in bulldozers, 

lives in upward dogs and dogs on leashes, 

panting in pace

with their master’s jogs, 

 

lives in the buildings at eye-level 

clandestine behind fog. 

 

A girl on the twenty-something floor

peers out of her bedroom window, 

imagining through the clouds, 

thinking of me. 

My Mother’s Name (A Response Poem)

My mother’s name

resides curbside

somewhere between the streets 

of 1960s Tel Aviv. 

 

Its childhood coo 

a sweet sound, 

its short legs swinging

playful above Rematachayal sidewalks, 

perched on Aba’s porch chair

pulled closed to the street

to watch the children play 

and wave to neighbors 

strolling from Shul to Shabbat

 

Ednale

 

My mother’s name, 

created and cultivated 

in the Moledet

its singsong vowels 

formed first on my Savta’s mouth, 

kissed into my mother’s forehead, 

indenting her third eye with a namesake

watchful, 

an outward view of her homestead

 

Ednale. 

 

My mother’s name

was and is

in childhood prayers

and a family of four sisters, 

in the hallways of a neighborhood grade school 

and between windows of a neighbor’s lost love. 

 

Her name is in the Yom Kippur War

and her Ima’s orange peel candies.


Her name is in evenings dancing

and hair rollers shared with her sisters,

and on a bus with Yochanan across the aisle

he, a silent soldier, 

she, a collection of stories 

chanted in high pitch memories. 

 

My mother’s name

is preserved in a promise 

of her homecoming

oh joy, oh peace, 

oh Ednale

return to the Motherland, 

return to your mother tongue 

where your name 

is uttered so purely, 

this, a pledge 

to retrace your steps 

and gather the consonants of your name

you left behind. 

Edna (Translation)

by Edna Levy Green, translated by Talia Green

 

My name, 

a gift from my birth

by parents who blessed its life

My name, 

that I’ve grown into

and grown with, 

my name in my hands. 

My name, loved 

by those who loved me

and I deserted, 

the name 

I let slip from my hands. 

 

Edna, oh Ednale

oh joy, oh peace. 

Without regretful pause, 

without hesitation, 

without a backward glance

it fell, my name

so long, I moved forward, steadfast. 

 

And now, I swear, 

for youI return. 

 

Return to my name, 

return to the Moledat

a homecoming, 

over my shoulder and steps toward

my Motherland, 

my name I left behind. 

When the Ceiling Falls

What art can we make 

from our wreckage,

Our astringent rubble? 

Pebbles have rattled loose 

from our ceiling 

under battering from 

an overhead storm—

they precipitate in shapes, 

hail in abstract form, 

configure in sharp lines 

on our living room floor. 

Debris, dislodged 

from our rooftop

and settled again 

at our feet in off-octagons.

Bewitching asymmetry, 

our destruction. 

 

Pebbles pose, 

and we pose, 

our shadows manipulate 

the lighting above our display, 

shade our angular spaces, 

smoothing the raised lines 

of the ceiling tile 

accrued by our sockless feet.

Constellations

Think of the constellations—

Yankee candles and their geometrics. 

Their flickers at funny angles, 

too removed from our mouths 

to be hampered by our giggling. 

Our spit doesn’t go that far. 

 

Think of the constellations—

Don’t think of the stars, 

think of the sew lines between them. 

Sweater threads, 

loose and frayed, 

but looping each amber spec,

knotting their form to its gauze, to each other. 

Buttons across charcoal cotton. 

They warm us on November nights. 

 

Think of—

constellations, 

candles and buttons, 

giggles and borrowed sweaters, 

chilly toes and funny angles. 

We sit on the in-between lines, 

our legs swinging between constellations 

unbothered by the winds back on Earth. 

Trees in October

Are you desolate or free,

shedding parts of yourself?

Clutching your canopy 

until its vibrancy dulled 

into sleepy amber, 

until its luscious frame

withered to papyrus scraps,

until its grip fatigued, 

and, to your canopy, 

the ground looked so wistful, 

heaps of its counterparts 

huddled together in rest. 

 

Who let go first, 

you or your leaves? 

 

It must be this loss

that scrapes rings into your base,

a wrinkle for a summer in passing–

each ridge, a memorial 

for the self you had 

let fragment and fall. 

 

What mournfulness you must feel, 

a body to withstand seasons 

and bearings that wither

once the air grows cold.

Autumn

Do you also 

stumble over sidewalk cracks? 

Hopscotch along 

skewed pathways,

diagonal lines—

your heel grazing raised tree roots,

your toes curling over indents of pebbles, 

groundwork lodging

into your sneaker soles? 

Do you also 

mind your steps,

teeter at stop signs? 

Do you carry with you 

a crown of leaves

when you come back home? 

End of Summer Days

You said to write 

when the seasons change,

to let the forward motion 

unsettle my words. 

 

Let the phrases

which sunbathed 

across the tree outside 

my bedroom window 

crinkle between their thinning leaves, 

be swallowed by fragility. 

 

Study the birds 

that nested between its branches,

write how they rush 

to distant summers,

their flight casting coolness

my bedroom floor

and the poems that lay there. 

 

You said to write 

when summer rubs shoulders

with shorter days,

to let my words chafe 

between their mingling. 

 

Maybe the air,

brittle as it is,

can carry my verses to you,

 

like wings

can haul bodies

to trees, somewhere,

with more promise of flourishing

in the days, months to come.

A Communal Space

On shallow evenings, your lover takes

to chafing dried oil off 

old roasting trays, 

scraping dirt lodged 

like clay between floor tiles

with her pinky nail.

On all fours,

her joints click in the 

rigor of her cleansing. 

 

Your lover takes 

to retying sneaker laces 

for a proper loop, 

over and under and knotted, 

not right, 

takes to stepping outside 

and stepping back in—

the crickets too resonant, 

they jeer at her emptiness. 

 

A sectional half lit.

A foreign film on mute.

An album has ended.

A father’s voice needles the shallowness. 

 

In her mind,

he nestles into his armchair,

scoffs at the hollow space 

and recites bible stories

she knows by word.