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WTK/September/October – revised December 2008

 

Screensaver (1939)

 

My mother looks down at her feet;

her high-heeled platform shoes,

her city-girl suit, so out of place

 

among her Connecticut in-laws,

relaxed in ‘weekend casual’.

Her sister-in-law, twin to Brunhilde,

 

drapes a heavy arm around her neck.

while my goyish grandmother, not yet

away with the fairies, exudes radiance,

 

her own feet laced up in old-lady-posh.

Beside her auntie May sports careless

mix and match, idles with a cigarette;

 

narrows her eyes against smoke, sunlight

or the madness that will overtake her soon.

Cousin Patty is there, too – kitted out

 

in everyday-schoolgirl: saddle-oxfords,

bobbysox, thick glasses. It’s their sturdy

comfy style horrifies my poor mother.

 

Digitised sepia picks out her tongue, its way

of protruding through lips too dark, too full;

her Semitic tongue she’s sharpening for later,

 

when she’ll lacerate the soul-less goyem,

stamp them with labels: the Amazon sculptress;

the fish-eyed schoolgirl, mishuganah May,

 

lurching towards incarceration, divorce

death. My clever mother who barrelled

through her short life on irony and insults -

 

her eyes avoid the photographer, my father,

who held her future in his hands, let it slip

through his fingers.  She might have stayed

 

to teach me what humour conceals,

about the anxious soul that lurks

in every stand-up comic; every Jew.

 

Wendy Klein

 

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