Judith Baumel

(October 9, 1956 / Bronx, New York)

The Block - Poem by Judith Baumel

What we could hear through the walls:
What couldn’t we hear through the walls?

What we could hear in the streets:
What couldn’t we hear in the streets?

What we heard in the house,
Friday nights candles low, end stumps of challah
the first to go, the sugar cube between the teeth
accepting and changing its glessele te, forefinger on bottom
thumb on rim, spoon stuck in to relieve and draw the heat.

That one kept gasoline and fireworks in the garage.
That one parked in front of the hydrant and never
got a ticket, and when they rebuilt the street
the hydrant was moved to The Stutterer’s house—
it was una cosa vostra.
That one bought his taxi medallion with his father-in-law’s money.
Those are the refugees whose
son went flying through the windshield, the one born
in America died, the one born in Palestine was driving.
Those were in DP camps and that one gets reparations for her broken back.
That one’s butcher scales are fixed.
The pharmacist’s wife should have told us about the monthlies,
That one was going through her changes and she hit her child.
That one’s insides dropped after her last child and she won’t
Let her husband touch her.

A piece of fruit after dinner, she called the youngest one melon-head because she had one.
Many called her katchkie-duck because once a neighbor saw her
Diaper-bound waddle
But the oldest one, k’aine h’ora, could not be seen
As an infant and wouldn’t be named in the open air.
The evil eye was too subtle.

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Poem Submitted: Friday, July 29, 2011

Poem Edited: Friday, July 29, 2011

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