logo


Contributor Notes

Lisa Grunberger


A Woman Not My Mother

She's digging shekels out of her white leather purse,
looking down through her bi-focals to see the sizes
of these new coins in her ancient homeland. In the mirror
I, a child of nine, can see the dark eyes of the cab driver
looking at her. After that I thought they would get divorced
for sure. I detected a lilt in her voice when she said goodbye—
“Lehitra-ot—shalom.” When we stepped out onto the busy
Tel Aviv street for the first time I looked at her as a woman
not as a mother. I saw her plump body with cream colored
slacks, a turquoise blouse stretched over her breasts, a fuschia silk scarf
wrapped European style around her neck—I looked and I saw
a quick-stepped and quick-witted woman walking half-way down
the block. I looked back at the cab lost in the lunch-time traffic.
I heard my name being called but I saw nobody attached.
She was gone. When I looked up, it was as though a director
had cleared the set of frantic extras. I could see her

at the next corner at a falafel stand, motioning me to come ahead.
I took a picture of her there as I got closer—she's reaching
for the falafel, overflowing with beet-stained turnips and olives,
she's not looking at me, she's looking at the man who's handing
it to her. I pressed the button on the automatic-focus camera
Daddy gave me before we left. I felt silly wearing it around my neck.

It swung from side to side when I ran down the block, against my flat chest.

How would I explain the glow on her face years later, when
the steam rises from the sink as I do the dishes and I can hear
the cabs honking, I can smell the pungent spice of the falafel
and shwarma, I can see the Asiatic eyes of the cab driver
grinning at her blushing face. You are beautiful I say
to her as I scrub a pot forever seasoned with the soups—
potato leek, sweet pea, schvamel,
she made years and years ago.



Driving Home from the Cemetery

My body a ghost of roses, engraved with memory.
My father's scent still so fresh,
the earth on my hands, beneath my nails.

Today I touched a shovel, spoke to a rabbi, said a prayer.
Today I kneeled. Greeted relatives I hadn't seen
for years. Now we drive, 70 miles per hour
somewhere in Queens, I don't know where.
Uncle Milton bought the plots years ago,
between the wars; you got a better rate by the bunch.

You put your hand on my left thigh
and it opens like a door with a loose hinge.

You say I spoke with grace and beauty,
the eulogy, the words.

Oh my man, drive me away
from this dust, these stones, do not leave
me here alone with stories spoken
in the past tense, he was, he was, he was,
so glorious, so good, so honest, so true.

Let's have a rain dance, a love fest,
let's bake bread. We go home to boxes
and covered mirrors. We go home
to his things, the kitchen. A car cuts us off.
No music for a year. I roll down the window,
put my hand out the window. Feel the wind
against my hand. Bring wind-palm to your lips.

For a long time, I stare straight ahead
at the road. Then I realize that the sky
on this August day is the color of his eyes—

a pale pewter blue-grey. All week
I cry.


Making Soup, Acts of Faith

He said I don't believe in divorce.
The copy woman held the receiver—

Does Delancy Street still exist?
It lives between my legs I offer—
and she cocks her head the way
you did when I said I didn't believe in marriage

and monogamy was a desert island.

You're thrilled at dinner because
you have no cavities. Let me
be your fillings I say as I stir
the lentil soup, an unfaithful copy
of Madhur Jaffrey's Indian original.

Between rooms I shout out the words I read:
Yeats said talent sees difference; genius sees unity.
I realize then, certain things are better said
when in the same room, whispered even, not shouted
between rooms, between bodies in different rooms.

Does Delancy Street still exist? Two huge
holes on the greatest island
in the world still exist. Across

the small table: soup's delicious, baby,
what's in it? Oh, everything but the kitchen
sink—sweet potatoes, peas, carrots, cumin, cream.

Children come on week-ends searching through the rubble
for their Fathers. Firemen salute dead body parts
found. Later, you whisper
let me be your filling
and I receive you, not numb, I receive
you as though you alone existed
as though without you I'd be an isle
of starving greed, untouched virtue, rattled
need. I don't believe

in death,
I say beneath the sheets, close to you,
close, so close it hurts.