I am thin skin, itchy with boundaries, Pale of Settlement with harsh sun, fierce winds,
chant prayer of confession, write God's unsayable name,
I am Paris and Rome, swim with my son's remembered laugh, with anemone and starfish,
track the flight of hawks,
I am Czernowitz and Shavli,
the grandfather of my grandfather hiding in the space between breaths,
I am my father's forgotten daughter, too old to be an orphan,
I taste cardamom and saffron, embrace my mother's ghost,
my heart tattooed with Mourner's Kaddish, watch my husband in the garden,
see leaves on the ginko flutter like miniature fans,
remember my father's fragile voice, my mother's stroke-slurred words,
a hummingbird at the bee balm,
I am cheap apartments and cracked blacktop parking lots,
a grandfather's suicide, Shabbat candles and melted wax,
I trace constellations and cloud-shadows, dream the songs of my dead,
shelter in my husband's arms, his quiet love,
I am the pond in the Homewood cemetery, a room of windows, Honeycrisp apples,
wine dark as a bruise,
grief-shrouded mother of a son with opioid wings, the color of missing,
I am my dream-heart in its cage of bones.
A page of Talmud arrives each day. I am a not-very-religious Jew. Faith spiders in, strands snag on questions. What is it I search for? Connective tissue, an ancestral tree whose roots survive? Talmudic law, ancient texts amended by ancient rabbis. People around the world study together, Daf Yomi, from beginning to end, seven and a half years to complete. An optimistic undertaking, a gamble I will still be alive. Sages argue across centuries. What comes first: Shabbat or the blessing over wine? Light fades quickly now, as holiness arrives. Trees, still leafless, silhouette against an ever-darkening sky. The Talmud says each blade of grass has an angel that whispers, grow, grow. Do the roots of grass and trees intermarry? I lie down in a meadow flanked by aspen. My cells dive below earth. Where is my holy time and space? What inheritance lives in me: cold from Ukraine, braided bread and honey warm in my mouth?
Valerie Bacharach received her MFA from Carlow University and is a proud member of the Madwomen in the Attic writing workshops. Her writing has appeared or will appear in Vox Viola, Vox Populi, Whale Road Review, The Blue Mountain Review, EcoTheo Review, Kosmos Quarterly Journal, Amethyst Review, On the Seawall, and Poetica. Her chapbook, Fireweed, was published in August 2018 by Main Street Rag. Her chapbook, Ghost-Mother, was published by Finishing Line Press in July, 2021. Her poem, "Bach Trio Sonata #6 in G Major," was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.