I can’t quite remember
the recliner. It could have
been brown plaid, blue tweed.
Was I was too focused
on dusty cabbage roses
in the carpet or on the grate
where the babka we baked
rose to meet each Sabbath?
I watched Mama sit by the grate
on her footstool, a dish towel
in her hands. She sat waiting,
like a Semitic Cinderella
with her toes pointed inward,
facing each other like signposts,
directing generations toward us:
grandfather, uncles, sister, me.
I think that chair was blue.
Daddy built shelves in the kitchen.
She peopled them with chotchkes,
a Dutch boy and girl magnetized
to forever kiss and the pushke,
rattled with nickels for the poor
children of Palestine. That recliner
eludes though I recall the night
I curled there in Daddy's lap,
crying on his chest. She left
even though I cried “Don’t. Don’t.“
I didn't realize until years later
the irony of Combat blaring
on TV as the door slammed.
When she returned, carrying
that old brown valise, her father’s
initials carved between the locks,
I never said a word. We made
Sabbath babka again, we clicked
the plastic Dutch couple in
and out of kisses. I pointed
my toes inward, like we do.
When Mama returned, she still
sat on the footstool. She still
called me Chavala, her little bird.
I can't remember the recliner,
though I am still a little bird,
so why has everyone but me