Marilyn Flower

The Mom Poems Feasting My mother sweeps the floor while my father and brother and I are eating. Though she sets a place for herself, it waits empty.“Mom–" I plead but she picks around the kitchen– piling dishes in the drainer, filling our water glasses, easing the broom back into its closet. “I'm not hungry,” she murmurswhen Dad urges her to eat, so he lifts his fork and finishes his meal.In the second round of night she shrugs on her old blue wrapper. I find her at the kitchen table, dribbling olive oil on a piece of challah, dicing garlic on the oil-soaked bread.She talks to me of her own mother,who lay all day in her bedroom after her son died, slipping out each night to cook and line the shelves of the icebox with the family’s next-day meals. She would arrange my mother’s breakfast on the plain deal table in the kitchen­­–a piece of challah, a cruet of oil, garlic. Her China My mother reminds me every Shabbos her China was made in Romania,creamy China with small magenta flowersdrawn open like butterflies’ wings.She knows little of her family’s life in Romania because she was born here in America, but she is proud her father learned his Biblewith scholars in the old country.She runs her hand over a photograph of him squinting at the letters in a Hebrew text, glasses roosting on his nose.Friday nights she serves us, her own small family, a supper of brisket, chicken, carrots stewed in honey, and thinks of her parents and their neighbors, who walked across the street or around the corner or perhaps eight or ten short Brooklyn blocks to ask a question of her father. Though not a holy man, he could find words to ease their confusion in the Talmud, that voluminous body of commentaryon God’s Laws. My grandparents sailed the Atlantic,endured Ellis Island, rented a house in Brooklyn, where their neighbors struggled to be good Jews.They came to my grandfather because when he read the Talmud’s passages to them,they understood how to behave. In Romania, my grandmother was beautiful,the daughter of a baker.She would giggle when the bespectacled young scholar came to court her, serving him garlicky dumplings,her father’s specialty.In America, leaking gas killed her son.My mother was conceived to replace the dead child. But her beautiful mother, frenzied with grief, snatched her breast from her infant daughter’s mouth. My mother washes her dishes reverently.She holds each plate and bowl close to the flickering candles, admiring their gleam.If my father isn’t looking, she mightkiss a teacup with the two golden handles that embrace it like ears, and let her tears flow. Mom in Heaven She is flying around heaven, my hairdresser says, peering into her vision.From my stories, she’s surprised to see my mother happy.But I am not surprisedonce I see who she’s flying with–her mother and father, a sister or two tagging behind.Her father doesn’t like to fly;they have to yell and yell for him, then coax him to make the trip every time.Circles, he says, frowning over his glasses and nose. Pah! he spits. He wants to make headway, what he calls progress.But most marvelous is the fact that she’s flying with her brother,the boy she never met.Up here, in the Beautiful Now,she gets to hold his hand.