Stop trying to strike me from the story.
Wife number 1, divine Mistake,
Original Divorce. A lady of the night.
Not. I am Elder Sister, distillate of stars
fizzing when we fried up the hot
universe. Here from the get-go, hey?
I’m talking to you, peacock, dragging
your tail around, kidding yourself
Woman is another beast to name.
To ride. In your empoundment
there, your suffocating ecosphere,
viral encapsulation, you’ve pinned up
a mockery of me. Wife number 2.
Splinter off a poor stick-figure man.
You have her naked, ignorant, wings
kinked, bent upon reproduction.
You think I want in? I ride at will.
I have a thousand names I give myself.
A pillow forced my grandfather erect,
his belly pressed against the Seder table.
Bony beneath the bathrobe whose maroon
silk stank of stale cigars, he squeezed
the arms of his patriarch’s chair
and glared at us. Squirming,
his grownup sons read every prayer,
as he demanded, washed their hands
three times, blessed the thick wine again
and yet again, toiling backwards through
the long Haggadah, every page a dune.
Under his breath he wheezed
Baruch atah, Blessed art thou.
Fever shone from his balding head;
droplets like manna fell onto his plate.
He kept us plodding down the way
his father, a whole line of fathers walked,
their history a hump against his back,
horseradish-bitter burn inside his chest.
They went, we went with them,
from wilderness to wilderness,
from Sinai to the shtetl to the camp,
from fetid hold to hayricks in the rain
up Pennsylvania back roads and at last
from his shoe jobber store and his own shul
to Grandma’s table sagging underneath
charoset cupped in silver. We did not dare,
even the littlest, to stretch out a hand
for the congealing carp, until he told
how Moses up Mount Nebo slumped
against rock, staring at milk and honey
he would never taste. He got us there,
and sank back. Pain closed in a tide
around him left and right, blurred him
to bed. Through the wall maybe he heard
us honey-sticky children on the march
chorusing Dayenu. It would have been
enough. We slogged through Ha gadyol,
its verses stretching till the Holy One
knocked out the Angel of Death.
Sand filled up his ears, pillowed his head.
Next year, the promised land.
Kristin Camitta Zimet is the author of the poetry collection Take in My Arms the Dark (Sow's Ear, 1999) and Editor of The Sow's Ear Poetry Review. Her work has been published in Poet Lore, Salamander, and Natural Bridge. She co-founded a Poetry Theater group. Her newest manuscript gives voice to 56 characters from Torah.