Breast Cancer Answers Art Gallery

Whatever Country

(for Talma Zoiberman of Petach Tikvah, Israel 1941-1994)

You won't share the pleasure of impatience at the post office
waiting to exchange air letters or watch the dark and light faces
of postal clerks and wonder what secrets they harbor
while hoping for what's possible in your country--any country;

no more Feldenkreis, picnics in the Galilee
to which you carry linen cloths, forks, roasts, felafel,
cooked corn, to spread elegance admist terrorism

You won't write eager to know the best seller or phone
at two a.m. to say we'll meet in Spain where we'll shop
for two Sephardic Stars of David. The last time I saw you,

I arrived from California with a crystal
which you wouldn't accept unless
I too brought back your locket to my country
You hung it around my neck

Your strong frame set against your dark hair
and full lips red with lipstick from the States
pouring forth perfect English
flavored with Hebrew gutturals

In your small flat you cooked that enormous dinner
though your arm was huge and swollen from that disease
you would not name. We laughed
with Saturday night pleasure after the Sabbath
had allowed you to rest

Today it is time to tear the roof from the post office,
and trill my tongue the way I learned
how to wail of loss in your land
this time not for holy wars

but from that disease every woman dreads in any country where she may live.

© 1994, Elaine Starkman


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