Poem by Linda Hepner
I like to take a catnap now and then
For instance on a Sabbath afternoon
When book in hand I lie down in the den
A glass of tea, some honey and a spoon
Upon the coffee table at my side,
While falling on my page the languid sun
Fills the dark room with shafting beams that glide
Lighting the lines I’m reading one by one…
The English words I read translated are
From long ago just yesterday, before
My grandfathers were forced to travel far
Escaping to a cold and rational shore
Where all that is familiar, all the sounds
And rhythms, colors that to me are home
To them were jarring, brutish, out of bounds,
Lost in their alien freedom as a tomb.
And yet they speak to me and I am lulled
By mama, rebbe, shtetl, Shabbas days,
My eyes close and my wandering thoughts are pulled
To cries and lullabies, a muddy maze
Of wooden schuls, of peddlers, sforim, stalls
In markets brimming with the food of love -
Potatoes, carp and carrots, chicken; calls
From bubbas, bochrim, neighbors, all who shove
And push against their fellows; each would win
The race to earn his bread, to sell her rags,
To keep his health, to keep her sons from sin.
A daughter weeps, a youth eyes other flags;
Some flee, some stay, some study, some succumb
And worship other anthems, other creeds,
But only those like cats who knew to run
Clung to their lonely lives but sowed their seeds.
Dear fathers, dearest mothers, where you lie
Is dark but for my dreams, where all is bright.
I wake upon my Sabbath and I ply
Your memories as if I lived your night.
The sun goes down, my tea is cold, my cat
Jumps like a silent soul upon my chest,
Then curling and purring, cunning, sleek and flat
Lives in the present, where I too live best.
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