My Gypsy-Jewish mother,
Yes, you can be both pasts,
She wasn’t, just a Jew,
But I’ll treasure the illusion ….
She, once rural, then urban, now rural,
A daughter always, a wife now,
Takes my hand ….
We walk to the brook, where –
It is Yom Kippur –
She’ll empty her dress pockets,
Letting the year’s sins spill into the thin water ….
Again, she takes my hand,
In her other an orange and white onion sack.
We’re off to pick milkweed.
The pods, rough,
The insides, silky and full of white seeds ….
She drops the sack,
And we begin to break off the pods,
Stalks brown and frost tinged.
We fill the sack.
The milkweed is used for downed pilots’ life-rafts,
Also for sailors life-rafts off sunken ships.
There is a war.
My uncle is there.
The radio tells me war news,
My grandmother adds to it.
My mother writes to my uncle.
He writes backs, letters censor-snipped.
She doesn’t tell me about the war.
The sun is still high,
A warm fall, with frosty mornings.
We begin to walk home.
She drags the sack.
She doesn’t hold my hand.
We cross the brook.
I look down.
The sins have floated away ….
Eugene “Gene” Novogrodsky mid-October 2012