Category Archives: Poetry

Soup—by Barbara D. Holender

Ths obligation was fulfilled with soup.
No mother’s plaint of unrequited care
survived a fiery penitential brew.
I heard my mother’s voice splinter like bones
against her mother’s aged plucking needs,
but there was soup and there was
the Fifth Commandment.

Now disappointed mothers wait for signs
while daughters dream recurrently of symbols.
Guilt is out of fashion, soup is out of cans,
and nothing else theyknow to do
implies those long and thoughtful hours of tending.

Women get on no worse now than before,
but that they lack the totem of the pot
to charm some warmth between them. read more

Balaam—by Barbara D. Holender

“Come and curse this nation for me” (Balak, Num. 22:6)
“Since God has blessed them, I cannot reverse it.” (Balak, Num. 23:20)

How can I tell you what came over me?
Not that the beast found her voice–
any simple sorcerer can pull that trick–
but that I, the most articulate of men,
lost mine. It was as if a spell seized me;
my mind was perfectly clear, I knew
exactly my mission and, being practical,
I always find for the one who pays my rent.
It was my own mouth betrayed me.

No surprise, then, that I missed the messenger
on the road. There was no messenger.
Not then. Not for me. My thoughts were fixed
on the perfect phrase, the lethal message.
He’s smart, that Jewish God, he’s hard
to get around. But I’ve matched wits with gods
from everywhere in the neighborhood
and bested them. Not Him. Not then, not now. read more

My Mother’s Legacy—by Barbara D. Holender

I want to live one day longer than Dad,
she said, so I can take care of him.

When he died, she apportioned their treasures
among us. Don’t weep for me, she said,
I’m ready to go.

Her heart believed her, clenching repeatedly.
I was hoping that was the one,
she sighed, after each seizure.

But when her grandmother’s candlesticks
appeared prematurely in the house
of the designated heir,
she was not pleased.

And when a scientific study related
the consumption of coffee
to diseases of the heart,
I think I’ll drink tea from now on, she said. read more

A Matter of Time — By Cathy Harris

The baby is wailing, howling at the moon,
startling the stars with her grief.
The toddler pushes a book at me, and
the four-year-old doesn’t like the way his sandwich is cut.
I have failed miserably.
What of the glories of motherhood?

My mother laughs, kisses me, kisses them.
says, This is life.
messy, difficult – and beautiful.
Love them, teach them to be kind.
It will get better, it’s just a matter of time.

I go grocery shopping.
Marc throws his glasses – why not?
He doesn’t have words to express how he feels.
He is scared, he wants to go home.
I apologize to the other shoppers, to the clerk, to myself, for my failures as a parent. read more

Two Poems–by Barbara D. Holender


God is good; He’s made me a grandmother.
Live and be well, little man, grow big, grow strong.
Just when I think I’m too weary to bother
and too old to start over, you come along.

Such pleasure in the house! Who would have thought
that widow harvest Boaz gathered in
was ripe for joy, or that your little heart
could make my bitter blood run sweet again.

You’re a blessed miracle–ask your mommy,
singing to herself like a nesting bird.
When my friends say a son’s born to Naomi
she smiles at me and never says a word. read more

To My Grandchild–by Barbara D. Holender

Little snail,
Can you hear me
with your new earbuds?
You wear my lifeprint sealed
within your see-through skin.

Your father scares your mother
with his anatomy book.
Next week you will be
big as my thumb,
all heart and brain.

What will you take of me
to ripen in your shell?
So much depends
on your selection.

You are bearing me
beyond my time alive

Shadow Play At The Western Wall–by Barbara D. Holender

Caperbushes sprout through dry crevices, spattering shade
on stone eighty feet above the congregation.

One chassid among the flock of crows–that one–
dances with himself in prayer,
sways left, now right seven times,
forward thirteen, now seventeen short bows,
again and again, pliant as a lulav,
his shadow advancing, earlocks matching
flying curl for curl, even the fringes
of his tallit, almost even the stripes
sharp in shadow, so clear the light,
so light the air, ah that Jerusalem air. read more

First Time at the Kotel—by Kathleen Wilkinson

Off the bus? Now, in the dark and the rain?
Our clothes are not correct, our hearts are not prepared.
The rainy walkways could be slippery but they are not.
Old men begging at the gate – “walk on by” –
They are always here.

Mothers and their small children have come,
Perhaps night is their only chance.
Prayer is alive – help, solace, hope shimmer.
I stand back a bit, unsure, but smiles
Call me forward, space is made – for me.

When I touch the stone, cold and wet,
The suns of two thousand years shine warm.
I know the comfort and the connection
Sought and found by my generations.
I belong. read more

Two Poems–by Barbara D. Holender

A Birthday

My feet are 88.
They look it–
puffing around the ankles,
collecting themselves
to shoot the dark veins
up the knotty trunks.
I travel light,
hope they’ll hold me.

But if I must go piecemeal
I’d rather go from below
like Socrates
conversant to the end,
than grope the long way down,
having thrown the master switch.

On Reading A Translated Poem

Yiddish poem
your bones stick through
your borrowed clothes.

Poor immigrant,
your relatives
are always explaining you,
while your displaced persona
cries out in its own voice
“That’s not what I said!” read more