for BillyAbe cries when he sees a picture
of my cousin Billy and his wife
Sharon on their way to making Aliyah.
He wants to go too,
not just because his father’s
buried in the military cemetery -
in Nahariya - next to his cousin
who died in the ‘48 war
but because Israel is the mythical homeland
he grew up with schlepping books
and blue and white tin cans
from one bus stop in the Bronx to another
boarding New York trolleys
the Jewish National Fund
distributed in his Tremont Avenue
He listens to the sound of coins dropping
like small metal matzo balls
in the pot on his mother’s old stove.
In his ears, a melody of hope,
Ha Tikvah, and of Israel
where his parents didn’t settle
where his aunt and uncle,
pioneer kibbutzniks, did settle
and where his grandparents
would have settled
if not for
He was too young for the war
but he fought in it anyway
alongside his brother
who won a Purple heart.
Abe carried those pushkas
as if they were the Ten Commandments.
Now he sits in a chair in our Seattle home
more real than Eretz Yisrael
and cries at Billy's departure.
Not because he's leaving
but because he is.
-Esther Altshul Helfgott