Because I always wanted one, my father has pulled a hairless cat out of my chest. He tells me about Abraham in Hebrew the way his father taught him. I stare at the door in his lips. My ears are full of winter. I try to hear, I really do. Water presses against my body, pushes salty grime inside my mouth, my nose, every pore. It swallows the sun. Darkness soaks through me, makes me heavy & sleepy. He lifts me from the water, whispers words from the only stories he knows, says God calls Abraham to the land, gives them a child late in life, calls them chosen. A part of me knows my father is not God & cannot breathe life into something so small as me, curled like the crescent moon this city is named after. I want to tell him something important as I hear him slap & slap the animal, first soft like a clap during service’s joy, then hard like a stomp during service’s dances until a loud smack like when I’ve been bad.
Above me, mumbling close to my face, his voice is scratchy like when he sings to Muddy Waters & Louis. Everything looks foggy, sounds like gargling. He says Noah would never have saved a sinner like me. I should stop my crying, start swimming so the great river can see me & keep me from going under, down where our house & car are taken back by the Almighty. Then I hear a trumpet warming up. A hungry noise, a gator’s open-teeth snap. I breathe & breathe & obey for the love of God, the way Isaac did with his eyes closed, without murmuring, aware of the sharp steel but not what his father hears, what his father knows, yet still willing to go through the floating door.
-from The Floating Door (Glass Lyre Press)
Father loves matzah balls more than me,
more than anyone. He doesn’t pause for them
to cool, a child with his prize.
I wait for the four glasses of wine,
the bitter herbs, the tightening
of his eyes & cheeks,
his shoulders & arms,
as he tells the same stories
every year: how he sacrificed
so much to be a Dad
after his own deserted them
with the rabbi’s most buxom daughter,
how he spent his monthly ten-cent treat
on sci-fi books, the buses it took to get
out of Sheepshead Bay,
how his mother threw away issue one
of Action, now worth a quarter of a million,
because he once asked where his Dad had gone,
how he shouted out the open door
about her refusal to learn to drive,
to move from the tired bricks of Brooklyn,
to breach her routine that lasted for forty years,
the hot months he peddled down Fifth like a commandment
& up First delivering silk for tips.
So I stay seated. I
look at my hands
in my lap. We say the final diaynu.
-The Floating Door (Glass Lyre)