Sunday, March 09, 2014

Memory -- a little imperfect poem

In 1971
in elementary school
my first year in America
alone and
discovering snow and coldness
I’d eat knishes and kosher hot dogs
from the vendor truck
at the intersection.
I’d walk home
my toes freezing
in useless boots
--all women’s boots were useless then--
mustard, and onions, and sauerkraut
dripping along my face
and gloved freezing hands
until I reached the two-story walk-up
which my family had integrated,
the scent of frying plaintains
curried mutton
ackee and saltfish
like Hansel’s thread
guiding me up the stairs
past the aroma of
gefilte fish, kugel, matzo ball soup, and whitefish
the calypso tunes
guiding me past Klezmer music
and ushering me into my front door.
I soon moved from ska and reggae
to disco, the Beatles, and Joan Baez
And always there was the familyless old lady
on the first floor
with the Auschwitz tattoo
taught me to play solitaire.

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