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Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012

The Only Jewish Family in the Neighborhood

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Out back, my mother pins old shirts

to lines, their white arms waving

off the sparrows. My sister laughs

with her. This year the puddle

spring pours in the gully is so deep

ducks come, a hatch of tadpoles

wriggles. I make boats of walnut shells

and chewing gum, a toothpick

mast, and set my paper sails to catch

light wings of wind, to sail across

the surface of my life the way these words

set out to cross the page, a tremolo

of thought. My sister calls my name

and leaps off of the swing, her body pausing

in mid-flight before Earth hugs her

to its breast again. She is afraid

of nothing. I am still,

like any sailor, studying the sky:

puffs of cumulus, the bashful sun.

The kids next door always insist

that Heaven is a cloud, so beautiful

the dead give thanks for dying, but no

Father’s hand extends to me, no angel

chorus sings, unless you count

the rain I hear sometimes against my window,

complicating sleep as its words

strike night’s surface. The kids

next door chase us and tell us

that we’re damned; they pinch

with fingernails, pull hair. My father’s

shirts fill with the nothingness

of angels, and my small boats

tip. I close my lids to keep

a world of silent faces in.

 

 

 

 

 

Judith Harway’s books of poetry include All That is Left (2009), a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award, and The Memory Box (2002). As professor at the Milwaukee Institute of

Art and Design and two-time recipient of the Wisconsin Arts Board literature fellowship, her work has been published in over forty literary journals and has received numerous honors, including the 2012 Muse Prize for Excellence in Poetry from the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets. Judith and her husband, musician Dan Armstrong, share their home with two orphan dogs, who are more than happy to take the place of their grown children