Two Poems, Eve Rifkah


In new but old house the kid 
has a room in attic         a fireplace 
the kid’s not suppose to use
but does     secret flames 
       the kid hunches over.

The kid’s never seen walls so ugly
rain-stain brown stripes slant to strip of ceiling
the kid thinks army tent
cold ground       winter war
spring mud.

Straight walls dark olive drab
the kid thinks tanks and jeeps and uniforms.
On green, yellow roses float the size of cabbages 
among scenes of New York    Statue of Liberty
Brooklyn Bridge, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
The kid thinks      who chose this?
                                                       Someone with hate

in their soul. 
The kid’s life wrapped in 
hideous     like old fish    like trash.

The kid tries soak      tries scrape
knuckles rub raw      hours go by
only tiny space of wall shows through
the kid gives up        covers with pictures
cut from magazines.     
The ma angry     the kid
des truc tive
the ma says    Stop.      The kid don’t care
wants away with yellow roses        liberty.

One window      north wall
never a slant of sun on pine floors 
where knots stick up   curve into the kid’s soles. 
All furniture wobbles.
The kid dreams of oceans
taut sails aching.


The kid knew aunts, uncles, cousins,
children of old Jews from Russia,
the Ukraine, Lithuania, 
all moved to suburbs
all had fancy houses with picture windows
and lawns – big flat lawns 
all around houses. 

The kid learned word exodus at Passover
when the Jews up and left Egypt
with Moses, the head man.
The kid thinks Jews leaving Roxbury
an exodus of sorts.

They took their shul with them
or rather built a new one. 
Old one with Jewish stars 
across ceiling sold.
New owners splash acid
on stained-glass windows
color not their thing.
The kid thinks sad to live without color.

The dad says, people of color
are beautiful, are dressed in their skin
not naked like white people.
The kid thinks naked is naked 
and skin is skin, all is fine.

On the streets round grandparents
people are dark now
are dressed in sienna, umber, burnt and raw,
cinnamon and a black so black 
blue lights shine from their skin.

Grandparents move one last time.

Eve Rifkah  was co-founder of Poetry Oasis, Inc. (1998-2012), a non-profit poetry association dedicated to education and promoting local poets. Founder, and editor DINER, a literary magazine with a 7-year run. She is the 2021 recipient of the Stanley Kunitz Medal.

She has run an ongoing writing workshop for 15 years and teaches workshops and classes at WISE (Worcester Institute for Senior Education).  She lives in Worcester, MA with her husband, musician, artist, writer Michael Milligan and their cat. 

Eve is author of Dear Suzanne (WordTech Communications, 2010);
Outcasts, the Penikese Leper Hospital 1905-1921 (Little Pear Press, 2010);
Lost in Sight (Silver Bow Publishing, 2021); chapbooks Scar Tissue, (Finishing Line Press, 2017); and At the Leprosarium, 2003 winner of the Revelever Chapbook Contest.

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