Chana Bloch

Potato Eaters

My grandmother never did learn to write.
“Making love” was not in her lexicon; 
I wonder if she ever took off her clothes 
when her husband performed his conjugal duties.	      
She said God was watching, 				 
reciting Psalms was dependable medicine, 
a woman in pants an abomination.

In their hut on the Dniester
six children scraped the daily potatoes from a single plate;		 
each one held a bare spoon.  				 

Five years from the shtetl her daughters  				
disguise themselves 
in lisle stockings and flapper dresses.   
The boys slick their hair with pomade.
What do they remember of Russia? “Mud.”

That's grandma in the center. At ease in owl glasses. 
Don't run, you'll fall.	  
Mostly she keeps her mouth shut; the children
would rather not hear.
What does a full stomach know 
of an empty stomach?

It's time you opened your mouth, bobbe;				  
I'm old enough now to ask you a thing or two 
and you're too dead to be annoyed.	 
You'll know where to find me, 
I'm the daughter of your second son.
I have the spoons.