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Kaddish for My Mother

Flickr.com, Internet Archive Book Images

Flickr.com, Internet Archive Book Images

Sarah Sarah shtetl child
of peddler Sholem, sheytled Mintzi, 
you bore the griefs of history to Brooklyn,
hungry for the taste of liberation
in the cage of a tenement
where you sang your exiled songs.

Sarah of dark curls and heart-shaped face, 
what a beauty you were, girl of seventeen 
smiling under April blossom trees
with Sam, namesake of your father;
in you he saw the Medina’s promised gold. 

The litany of your three day labor, 
your apocalyptic screams 
while Bubbe Sonia muttered in his ear
bad luck to kiss before a birth.
His male hesitation
his fear of uncleanness
The kiss too late.