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
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.