In “One Kid…” Eve Rifkah tells the childhood of a girl with “a crazy ma” and a father sometimes loving and sometimes distant but always painfully unaware of what his child’s life is like. The poems, seen through the eyes of “the kid”, detail both the soul-killing times and the rare moments of escape like a journey to the library:
“The kid breathes deep
Rifkah’s previous works include Lost in Sight, Dear Suzanne, Outcasts the Penikese Leper Hospital 1905-1921, and the 2003 winner of the Revelever Chapbook contest, At the Leprosarium. She was the 2021 recipient of the Stanley Kunitz Medal.
Her opening poem, “Runaway”, sets the tone as “the kid wants away … knows steel-teeth clench”. Her dad patiently walks her down three flights of dark stairs and asks her where she’ll go.
“The kid looks out to dark
no way to go alone.
turns back to door
Her artistic dad, in his moments of attentiveness, takes her to museums and explains the paintings until the kid is “on a first-name basis, Claude, Edouard, Pierre, Vincent”. Then in “Color”, the kid watches her dad create with pastels.
“The kid’s fingers itch for color
wants being an artist too.
asks for pastels to use.
The dad says don’t touch.”
Rifkah’s poems capture the world as seen by the child and uninterpreted by the adult penning the poems. She often writes in short lines of child-thought as when the kid rebels against her elementary school primer’s “Maple street white houses”:
“Who lives like that? The kid asks
wishin to be someplace
For every that-should-not-happen-to-a-child poem, as in “Pet” when her crazy ma chases her around the kitchen with a knife because the kid’s new pet cat had an accident on a bed, the kid’s visiting friend
“thinks time to go home
Never comes back.”,
there are stories of safety and wonder at the Codman Square Library in “Escape”, the joy of outdoor skating with her dad, and the pride of winning a Massachusetts student art award for a linoleum block print. The print graces the cover of “One Kid, A Telling.”
“Embellishment” presages the kid’s later turn to writing when she learns of her love for words. As her dad reads to her stories of “myth and magic” she
“… inhales new words-
embellishment the kid keeps
stashed away to sound out in dark times
em bell ish ment the kid likes the sound.”
“One Kid..” takes you on a journey from the kid who
“…wants light, wants looking out window
to see sky”
to the adult in “Grown” who knows
“The kid still just a kid
no matter the years
that piled on like so many
calendars tossed away.”
David Sjostedt’s writing has appeared in Rolling Stone magazine, their anthology The Rolling Stone Book of the Beats, the Boston Phoenix, the Sonoma County Independent and others.