on Passover, my father puts on a gray
flannel suit, mama wears taffeta with a gentile pleated
skirt & Doris Day hair — she says I don’t want
to stay long — he is silent,
Rachel is his sister –
listen, all his sisters will be there
he has memories, tumble-down humble tenement Jews
on Delancy Street among the pushcarts
single boy in a slurry of females.
We park our Buick convertible
shined turquoise with leather seats
take an elevator to the fifth floor
ring the doorbell — wait
in the hallway & Uncle Louis opens up —
bright light inside, thick cooking smells
chattering voices & Perry Como sings.
Shalom Louis says in his ghetto Yiddish accent, reaches out
to squeeze my mother
she turns stiff, we crowd in.
Hello finally, Aunt Rachel cries
Oh my god says Aunt Esther who hugs us in turn
my mother says give her a kiss.
Esther is all red mouth, she is the youngest sister.
You’re late shouts Aunt Rita who waves from across the room
flounced in fancy green, all powdery white bosom, her arm
around Uncle Joe who borrowed
five hundred dollars last year from my father
but never paid it back. Oy you are so big says
perfumed Aunt Fanny as she bends over to embrace me — Uncle
Howard behind her sweats in blue serge and looks bored. Welcome whoops Aunt
Frieda all smiles and teeth and dark wig. The cousins are sitting on the floor
watching Arthur Murray. We swallow deep
breaths of gefilter fish & matzoh ball soup & kasha & roast
beef & chicken giblets & gravy & potato kugel & noodle
kugel & challah bread till it’s time to eat — spill sweet
wine on white embroidered tablecloths, card tables stretched from
kitchen through living room all the way to a bedroom door.
I listen to the aunts laughing in shrill voices, they bustle
about in the cramped rooms serving food. Mama at the far end
from me flirts with Uncle Joe and Howard drinks too much.
My father looks happy.