Not the aspirate in achoo,
like a faux ami
tricks the American eye.
Worn fingernail-sized for luck
where a neighbor dangles the cross,
this letter coughs up the Fiddler cliché
with a sound of choking on life, chai,
and my great-grandfather’s name.
by some Port of Baltimore
official with a sense of humor,
Chaim stands like a wrestler
on the sepia card.
His immigrant hands, big as prayer-books,
could knock a child of either sex
across a room, without closing.
This is how my grandmother lost
her hearing in one ear.
If she didn’t like what you were saying,
it went into that ear.
My mother’s Hebrew name, Chanah,
biblical woman who seemed drunk
when she cried to God,
begins with this sound.
And chayot is the word for creatures
from which the Travelers’ Prayer
like the moose on a Maine highway
that stepped before my step-brother’s Chevy.
When the boy realized he was alive,
a moose song came out of him.