Last of the Red Hot Lovers




 

Last of the Red Hot Lovers

 

As nice as the Obama is,

as handsome und sexy

und ever-thing else about

his talking with speeches,

he’s not for me, my darling,

no - he’s just not jewish enough,

my grandmother says to me. 

 

But if I was a schiksa, you betty believe

I’m gonna call up the Obama,

and I’m gonna say in the receiver -

this is if he’s not married now,

because Bubbie don’t fool around -

so I’m gonna say ‘Obama,

this is the Bubbie, and I am a real hot ticket !

And does she start laughing

at herself, and slapping her hands

in her lap, reaching for her cup and saucer,

and breaking pieces off the cake ring

I’ve brought from Canter’s. 

You know darling, Canter’s is not kosher. 

No.  But I won’t tell grandpa

 

‘Hey, when is Zeidie coming home anyway ?’

He’s at schul, but between us

I think he’s got another

girl on the side.  And does she start laughing

at herself again.

( I’m gonna ask her,  

maybe today I’ll try.  )

But she beats me out of the gate as usual. 

Nu, what you making, mine kindt ?

Still mit the glazes

‘Yes, Bubbie,

the kiln is full of the new mugs

for the shop on Montana. ‘

That’s my kindt, good girl,

never saw the old country,

never saw the factory,

but she has the making in her-  

mine kindt, and she caresses my forehead

with her ancient hands. 

 

I’m going to ask questions

I think it’s today. 

 

It’s so obfish, so obfish

that you are mine kindt,

and my father, of blessed memory

obfish that you are mine and his and ours

‘Ob-vious, Bubbie, ob-vi-ous ‘

I know it’s ob - vious, but I say it mine own way …

(I’m going to ask questions, Bubbie,

questions you don’t want to talk.  )

 

‘Bubbie, Bubbie

do you …

remember when you were in Germany …. ‘

 

yes, mine kindt, yes  

 

‘and do you remember, before the war

when you were in Bremen

and you lived with great grandfather and … ‘

 

my mother, yes, I remember

 

‘so, do you remember the last days before,

before you, were moved out of your house ?  ‘

yes, I remember.  You wanna story,

I know, you always wanny story.  So –

here we go,

We were a community of artists

my father and my uncle and the whole land

as far as you could see up the road was our land

and we had 58 workers and we made the finest

pottery and dishes and tiles

in the country, but you know this,

you are the legacy. 

They can take away the factory

and they can take away the house

and we can move to another place,

but they can’t break us

and they can’t take away our truth,

and that’s why I keep saying,

why don’t the Palestinians move to Jordan or Oman,

or work something with the Obama

to move the ones who want a house and a job in America 

to come over here and like we did, and start again

 

And she sits with her mouth waiting for the answer. 

‘I am not sure why the Palestinians don’t move here Bubb,

I think they want to live in their own homeland’,

 

You think we didn’t wanna stay

in our homeland ?  We was there almost seven

hundred years.  But Bubbie’s going off the

subject, like my kindt always says, nu, where was I ?

So the night was cold

that night

when the soldiers came. 

The snow

was on the ground und the house

was so beautiful as we walked away.  

My mother had a piece of fur around

her collar that shook in the

wind.  You look a little bit like

her, mine kindt.  Und so und then und

years passed and we never went home again

and now the workers children

own the factory and live in the houses

and it’s still standing to this day. 

The end. 

 

And she looks and smiles and

pushes the pastry between her teeth. 

‘Thanks, Bubbie.  I wish I could

have been there with you.  You know,

in the snow that day. ‘ 

I know you would, my dearest kindt,

I know that you would have stood up to them

with your goodness

and so I am glad that you weren’t there

and that you came later to the Bubbie,

and now we are best friends, nu ?   

‘Yes, you are my best friend. 

But, Grandma, can I ask you something

then, since we are so close ?  And you won’t be mad ?  ‘

Never could be mad with my kindt. 

What is it, you need a little money ? 

‘No Bubbie, it’s not that. 

I want to know about what happened.  ‘

What happened

‘Between when the soldiers came

and when you arrived in America. 

The part between.  ‘

And she’s not smiling anymore and

she’s not hungry anymore

and the air got sucked out of the place

and it’s my fault. 

‘Forget it Bubbie, I’m sorry. 

I always wanted to know, ever since

I first saw the number on your arm

when I was little but

I know you don’t want to talk about it

and that it’s not nice to ask, forgive me

I’m sorry to upset you.  ‘

You wanna know, huh ? You wanna know what

they done to Bubbie ? 

‘No, actually I don’t

I’m sorry, Bubbie  ‘

I say -  and I feel like crawling

under the coffee table

and vomiting. 

And her eyes steel up

and she says

Everything what you think they could have done

to the Bubbie, they did, 

but I don’t wanna say

because the words

can’t do what the meaning of what happened is -

maybe if I could explode the house

and the next house and the next house

and all the neighbours would come out shrieking

and the mountains would burst fire up into the clouds

and this went on for twenty seven months

and everyone around was all helpless und starving

then you could know what they done to Bubbie, 

but to say

they tortured me,

or they killed my mother

in front of my eyes, to say

a small phrase

like this

or a smaller one like

rape,

if I say these

small things

like a grocery list, to make

a terrible recipe

I maybe should just be talking about

nothing.  

 

Bubbie sits with me,

she sits until the sun goes down

and lets me sit with her

in the quiet of her living room. 

I’ve cried so hard

for my grandmother

that my head is pounding

and she knows it, because she knows me. 

She stands up and takes me outside.  The cars

and the night air is strange comfort.  Holding my hand

she walks and says

When the Russians came

to take us out from there

I was 88 pounds,

I walked with a stick

in the sanitarium for a year and I

couldn’t speak for two years,

I was a scrap of me,

the whole family was all killed, 

I had typhus, and they thought that I could never

have any children

after all what happened down there. 

Und when we came to America

we worked so hard and laughed so hard again

and there was new wonders like

Uncle Miltie on

the television and how the new synagogue

got raised up on Wilshire, and food like 

you couldn’t believe and the bread man came in the morning

and we would go outside to pick the

loaves we wanted from the back of his van,

and some of the shelves had rolls and some had pies and

some had cakes

and he always had a necktie on !  The bread man ! 

And things was like this and so

for a while,

and then your father came and then you came and

you say the hell with all the nightmares

and you run to the door when the bread man

rings his bell. 

 

Bubbie and me are walking,

Our arms and hands are weft together

like folk dancers readying 

for a swift promenade,

but we go carefully.  

Little sighs come out of

Bubbie, as she pads the side streets

and I remember something

that I meant to tell her: 

‘Bubbie, by the way,

Obama’s not jewish at all,

you know, he’s not even ‘…

what are you talking,

of course the Obama’s a little jewish

she says  

and she walks me

all the way

to the corner.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pushcart Prize Nominated ( by Linda Ravenswood