I had the most wonderful time sitting on a bench outside my neighborhood library tonight. A caregiver moved in and I had two whole hours to read in the open air. Picked up the Edward Field book I had on hold. He's sooo good, the way he tells my grandmother's history as well as his own, albeit his started in New York and my grandmother's, my Bubbe Esther's, began in Europe and ended in Baltimore. Here's from his 1972 collection, A Full Heart:
Both My Grandmothers (first of 7 stanzas)
Both my Grandmothers came from far away
on the difficult journey alone with their children.
They had the courage to do that
but only enough strength
to get here, raise their kids, and die.
I myself have stood on the shore of the Caspian Sea
crying my eyes out
and knowing how far away far can be
and how far this America - strange and difficult even for me -
was from their homes,
from the life they yearned back to.
But they lived here uprooted the rest of their lives.
[my Bubbe Esther, for whom I am named, had seven children. So did my Bubbe Kayla, but some of hers were left in Russia].
and from Field's Being Jewish (5th of 7 stanzas)
Women were always tired in those days and no wonder,
with the broken-down bodies they had
and their guts collapsed,
for with every child they got a dragging down.
My mother finally had hers
tied back up in the hospital and at the same time
they tied those over-fertile tubes
which freed her from 'god's terrible curse on women.'