Tuesday, May 31, 2016

From the Notebook of J Michel

The war was over

They stamped my passport at customs
and all I could do as flinch.
Shrink from the officer’s gaze as he asked me
where I’d been –how long I’d been gone?
Why had I gone?
I wanted to scream at him, clutching my arm
in barely muted hysteria,
I didn’t want to go –this just happened to me!
I opened my mouth and chocked on the ashes spilling out.
I wept, humiliated
at being interrogated yet again.
He softened suddenly as he looked at me
and said, ‘have a good day ma’am.’
I braced for my death sentence and
was shuffled out of line.
In the car, I searched for some sign
that the war was over.
My mouth told them I was happy –yes,
My suffering was over, thank G-d.
I shivered under my jackets.
The Giantess of the Island turned
her massive and dispassionate face
towards me,
Little one –why aren’t you grateful?
Have I not stretched forth my hand
and delivered you from bondage?
Still tasting the ashes of Europe,
my bitter response tumbled out:
Where is my husband? Our son? Where are
my little girls?
Don’t talk to me about gratitude –
hell is no deliverance from Egypt.

From the Notebook of J Michel


At night,
when the distraction of forced labor
fell away,
the unrelenting desire for missing things and people
came to shackle me firmly
into the barracks.
You could never sleep until
you had snuggled up next to me
and laid your hand over my heart.
The weeks passed,
my body shrank away in horror,
and it seemed my heart only grew larger
as I became hollow.
In the exhausted silence
I would reach for you, heart engorged with sadness,
And you would say, mama. Zog ze mama, dos du mich liebst.*
Ja, mein kind, I would answer (I never said good-night).

Ich hab dich lieb.**

*Yiddish, meaning: tell me mama, that you love me. 
**German, meaning: Yes, my child, I do love you.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

From the Notebook of J Michel

World to come 

You will find on a day of deep remembrance.
When the shadows thrown by twilight
are not so much threatening,
as reminders of my secrets.
You will embrace me;
rain will mist on the docks
where we said good-bye so long ago –
fledglings will nestle under
the shadows of  wings.
I will call out as the night
rises from the other side of the world
(bringing inward outward)
and when you speak my name
it will not be mere words,
but evidence of what you’ve held

inside you all along.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

From the Notebook of J Michel


The light was on.
Come inside, she said, and held open the door.
I sat on the couch and cried;
I showed her my bare feet.
She made me tea and listened patiently
While I spat and hissed out the events that had brought me there.
Finally, when there was no more to say,
She put her arms around me and I fell asleep –
Wishing I could stay forever within the comfort
And confines of those walls.
I had no idea what was to happen the next day –
I had no idea if she’d be there when I woke up
Or when I’d find her again.
I just knew that she loved me,
And whether or not our prayers are for us or the people that love us,
Somehow uttering them creates a future.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

From the Notebook of J Michel

Immortal Beloved 
Darkness early outside.
The sun, latent, absent, 
has gone on to fulfill other destinies. 
The moon is not yet risen.
You are near somewhere;
I imagine you sitting, reading,
drinking coffee alone by the window.
I shiver
from the weight of the unspoken
between us when you refrained 
yesterday from an embrace.
I couldn’t read the look on your face;
now, fear that your hands 
were not empty fills me with dangerous hope.

My love, I call you differently in this life,
but it doesn't stop me from wondering
if you are one of those
whose hands are full of soul-shards
created in the endless wars
and shrines of history.
Pen in hand, I sit alone beside my teacup
contemplating vacant space. 
Whatever pieces you have, my love,
you must keep. 
Keep them because I'm not done loving you.
Because you will need them in worlds to come.
Because hands that are not yours
contain the shards of this life.