Shalom Aunt Rachel who lives in an apartment building
over the Cross Bronx Expressway — on Passover
my father puts on a gray flannel suit, mama does
taffeta-time with a gentile pleated skirt & Doris
Day hair — she says I don’t want to stay long —
he is silent, Rachel is his sister
all his sisters will be there in fact
he has memories, don’t you know, poor 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 upstairs to the fifth floor
ring the doorbell — we wait
in the hallway & Uncle Louis opens up —
bright light inside, thick cooking smells
chattering voices & Perry Como sings.
Shalom Louis says in his Yiddish accent, reaches out
to squeeze my mother
she turns stiff, we crowd in.
Shalom Aunt Esther who hugs us in turn
my mother says give her a kiss.
Esther is all red mouth, she is the youngest sister.
Shalom Aunt Rita who waves a greeting from across the room
red hair, body cased in a fancy green evening gown
arm around Uncle Joe who borrowed
money last year from my father
but never paid it back. Shalom jowly
perfumed Aunt Fanny who bends over to embrace me — Uncle
Howard stands sweaty in the background. Shalom Aunt
Frieda who swoops over, her hair is thin & she
has a funny big nose, whoops in joy. All
my cousins are sitting on the floor watching
television — Shalom Stephen whispers to me, I have a lot
of money in a box on the top shelf of my closet. We swallow deep
breaths of gefilter fish & matzoh ball soup & kasha & roast
beef & chicken giblets & gravy & potato kugel & noodle
kugel & challah bread & 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.
Shalom all 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.