As the rain sopped cement becomes an ever darker hue, Jeanette calls to insist that she’ll be over to visit within the hour. Thirty-three years of watching the rain in blissful solitude isn’t a bad run. Besides, I already know that today’s rain isn’t going to be one of those eternal days. The air isn’t right. I’ll check outside anyway, even though the rain wasn’t violent enough. It wasn’t urgent. Rain needs to be urgent; my husband taught me that.
Gittel Goldberg turned her back on her cramped kitchen and gazed out the window over Madison Street. How she longed for a space between the tenements, a glimpse of the ocean—the last thing that had touched the world she had left behind. But no, only an unyielding line of stone and metal stood before her, buildings and fire escapes huddled together beneath a gray sky heavy with rain. She wiped her hands on the dishtowel and untied her apron, all the while staring at the window directly across the way—Frieda Mandelbaum’s place, with its fringe of white curtain blowing to and fro. Looking at it, she remembered the dream of the night before.
I don’t know what to buy my grandmother.
At eighty-three, she surrounds herself
with trinkets she can no longer see
I ripped the carpet off my stairs
so now I’m halfway up and halfway
down, extracting staples from scarred
slabs of pumpkin pine. Destruction
beats creation in a footrace every day
Like the way religion gets in the way
of the spiritual, and the habit
of honesty gets in the way of truth,
I have gotten in the way of myself.
I worshipped them,
my new deities;
Mr. Jack Daniels,
made an altar
with empty shot glasses
I have mis-carried three babies in a field of wheat,
laboring hope from my hollowed self: coleoptiles,
those budding leaves and lives in protective sheathes.
Luz blessed the day her neighbor, Don Chuy rolled-over his milk truck. Nobody would ask for an accident like that, but now, years later, she knew Don Chuy blessed the day too. It was the day he was miraculously spared from the jaws of death, the day the Virgin spoke to him.
It’s a chilly day, but despite the cold, a guy stands at the intersection where drivers wait for the light. He’s selling bouquets of long-stemmed red roses, the kind men who forget may seriously need. The kind my aunt sent for my father’s funeral because, as she wrote, “red roses are for someone you love.”