Contributor Notes

Naomi Benaron

Naomi Benaron


Jacqueline Du Pré Plays Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 in G


I am in the middle
of preparing breakfast when the music

catches me off guard,
sorrow and joy quivering in the bowl,
my hand paused mid-air
until the sliced strawberry slips
from my fingers,
its sanguine stain left behind

on blade and flesh,
and I think of her,
each note a strand of caught silk
winding in and out of her body
with every tremble of the bow,
and as prelude cascades into Allemande,

that turn of tempo slipping into loss

and longing, minor turning major inside-out
I see her: hair, freed feather of white gold,

the way it held and released the light,

the secret, inchoate tangling

inside the dendrites of nerves

mistaken for the heart’s music,

that riven fabric of ecstasy.






In this photograph
the Nazi caught the Jews

at the moment
when they poured out
of the boxcars and into the air.
The tallest among them had seen
out the slit
of window the sign
that read "KL" and had thought Lublin.
They had heard the Jews would be resettled there.

But it was Auschwitz, the K and the L tangled

in the web of the word Konzentrationslager,
the sound of that l much harsher in the throat
harsh as ash, the last l in the eye,
and all those yellow stars
floating up and up into the black sky of smoke.




The Language of Water


Because my father’s grandfather did

not know his name he became a body

of water floating like a cloud

above the swan’s head of the Black Sea.


Twenty years of wars and only the word

Jew in his heart, he walked to a place

of tall grass swept with the broom of the wind

and took the name of the sea, Azov, for his own.


Because my mother was conceived from the flame

of a Yahrzeit candle, the hum of the Kaddish in her ears,

she was born with fire under her fingernails,

her dead brother’s name singing in her heart.


In her mother’s womb she learned to sleep

with the sway of a horse-drawn wagon, the fever

of loss and flight. It would not be the last of either.

Behind her, the first Great War boiled like a furious sea.


The brother she would never know slept

in the earth. Her grandmother slept

on the living room floor in a lake of blood,

the dent of her Shabbas candlestick in her skull.


Because I was born speaking the language of water

Because I was born swallowing flame

I am destined to dig on my knees in the earth

seeking the world’s veined taproot, its tender viscera.


There are too many wars and there is too much

suffering to hold in my hands. Too much death.

I was even afraid to hold my mother when she died.

And to think! I could have soothed her fever with the sea.