by Rachel Barenblat

Rachel Barenblat lives and writes in Williamstown, MA. Her first volume of poetry, the skies here, was published by Pecan Grove Press (San Antonio) in 1995. Her poems have recently appeared in The Berkshire Review, Portfolio, and others. When she is not writing she is usually baking bread, brewing beer, or singing madrigals.

It is 1939. There is a child
with light brown curls and demanding eyes,
Shirley Temple without her tap shoes.

The young father paces on deck. His sister
and her husband jumped ship when their boat
was turned back: by now, perhaps,

they have made their way to Brazil.
The young father is still pacing. The nervous energy
that propelled him through Russian high school,

chopped his medical school name to Eppie,
exploded forth in his first daughter, now three,
with her sailor cap, makes the President Harding

too small: the daily lifeboat drills,
impatient fingers fastening the wave of orange
around his wife's neck. He bets

on horses, wins fifty dollars. His fingers
trace his diploma, creased in a pocket. Fifty-seven
years later four old men in Masonic aprons

will gather before his family
to place a leafy twig, "symbol of everlasting life,"
on their Brother's wooden casket. His only son,

born in America long after the boat crossing,
stands, says "Daddy would have loved this: all
of these people here, talking about him -- "

It is 1939 and his quiet wife comes out
to the deck with their dark-eyed child. He holds
her on his knee, singing in Czech, notices

her small fingers. Thinks, "No matter
when God takes me, she will be when I am gone."
He laughs, reflected in her stubborn eyes.

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