A Literary Magazine in Support of the Jewish Community

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Two Poems by Linda Laderman

Fake Barbie

My mother brought me a fake Barbie. I hated her. Her name was Peggy, or maybe Lil. Fine names for a real girl but not for the doll I wanted—a sleek piece of plastic, coveted for its blondeness, unlike me, a prepubescent, hazel-eyed Jew, with dark hair woven into a braid to keep it from morphing into a headful of curls, that when left untouched, stood out as much as the Star of David I wore on my only one on our block who doesn’t go to Catholic school neck. Fake Barbie had a bowl cut and was wrapped in glitzy tissue inside a brown grocery bag my mother got from the A&P. I suspected she bought the doll with her S&H Green Stamps. The imposter came in a chintzy red dress, while blonde Barbie peered out from a hot pink box, costumed in high heels and a striped swimsuit, eyes aqua blue, like the chlorine heavy water in the public pools that welcomed wannabe Barbies. I was old enough to see that my chubby body couldn’t conform to the collective consciousness that propelled Barbie into iconic status. Even so, I wished for an actual Barbie. It didn’t matter that her plastic body was so hard if I stepped barefoot on one of her skinny limbs it would feel like the time I walked on the Lincoln Logs my little brother left lying on the linoleum. It might have been a small scrape, but the pain was so sudden it made me howl.

The Orchid

Our neighbors brought us an orchid,

four white petals on a tree branch.

They didn’t say because you are

the only Jews around here, and we were

wondering if you had family there,

or we heard you sobbing on your step.

They didn’t ask if we want revenge

or to avenge, or if we were sickened

that babies, anybody’s babies, are dead,

and did we ever feel safe here or anywhere?

And was Never Again our conviction or were

we always waiting for the other shoe to drop?

As they stood at our door, I tried to recall

if I had told them my father was Russian,

from Odessa, but now he would be Ukrainian.

And did I need to remind them how his five

siblings and parents piled onto a steerage

ship in 1906 to escape a pogrom that left

thousands of dead, solely because they

were Jews. And will it matter if they know

how deeply I believe the State of Israel

has a right to exist. And if I voice my view,

will they think I have divided loyalties,

that I don’t love America, my birthplace?

And is it necessary for them to hear how

nazis used Jewish babies for target practice,

that this is nothing new for us. And what if

they say we should get over it already?

How long are we going to invoke the six

million or worry about our synagogues,

where police patrol every Shabbat service?

Should we have let ourselves believe

if all else failed we could return to Israel?

What do we tell our children? And thank you

for the orchid; it was very thoughtful.

We’re happy all we need to do is add three

small ice cubes once a week to keep it alive.

Linda Laderman

Linda Laderman is a Michigan writer and poet. She is the 2023 recipient of The Jewish Woman’s Prize from Harbor Review. Her micro-chapbook, What I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know, was published online in 2023 on the Harbor Review site. Her poetry has appeared in Gyroscope Review, Thimble, Third Wednesday, SWWIM, ONE ART, Poetica Magazine, The Jewish Writing Project, and Rust & Moth, among others. She has work forthcoming in Mom Egg Review. For nearly a decade, she volunteered as a docent at the Zekelman Holocaust Center in Farmington Hills, Michigan. You can find her at lindaladerman.com.

 

 

Linda Laderman
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