was born in Italy and grew up in Yugoslavia, Zaire, Poland, Belgium, Austria, and the United States. She is currently pursuing a PhD in creative writing at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Her work has appeared in Poetry
, The Hudson Review
, The New England Review
, Poetry Northwest
and other journals.
< Back to Poetry Contents>
Gold Street Bakery
in AlwaysWinter, Poland
the storefront sign proclaims in gold.
What pastry chefs were still alive
by then? Few Jewish ones survived
to roll pale sheets of dough, unmold
plum cakes. By nineteen-forty-five,
most towns were Judenrein. They thrived
without their Jews. And truth be told,
what Jewish bakers still alive
after the War wished to revive
dead trades? Their ovens stayed bone-cold.
No marzipan in forty-five
or candied lemon peel. No knives.
No flourwhite fingers to fold
the pastry, blossom-shaped. Alive,
they saw their recipes archived,
the sugared artifacts of old
Polska, burned up in forty-five.
What Jews? What Jews were still alive?
Zeno's Paradox of the Shtetl
It is the frozen world that I’ve approached
for thirty years but cannot reach—
to Poland in a sleigh,
imagining the silver runners sled across
and halfway to Galicia again,
passing the wooden synagogues, the men
who wear black coats and fur-trimmed hats,
their wives and daughters fat
with goosedown layers,
mittens, scarves, babushkas covering black hair,
the women’s faces lined, opaque,
a pewter sheet of ice above a lake,
and halfway to a town that shivers by
the Vistula, the river’s luminosity
like fish scales scraped
away with knives, then halfway following the liquid shape
which water makes through land,
always the distances expanding,
a home so faraway it can’t be seized,
intangible as winter through the trees.
The night that Bubbie died I hadn’t planned
to watch beside her bed, holding her hand
while skin began to lose the tint of skin,
the rose perfume she wore becoming thin
as scent, though more than memory. Some say
a spirit passes from the world the way
it came, closed tightly against dew. After
I draped the mirror black, I tried to graft
the midnight integers that laced her arm
onto my own, a death camp’s good-luck charm
she carried sixty years. Tradition says
the dead need privacy—we cannot gaze
at those who can’t gaze back. But I
stared at the iris fading in her eye.
We’re flowers, all of us, even the ones
who plant gray pebbles on the marking stone,
instead of praying with bouquets. We cleave
to life with finger-roots yet cannot leave
the dead alone. They branch through us until
each body finds the body of the soil.