The rabbis told me that if I did more
good deeds, the dead would come back.
I helped a homeless man tie his shoe
and gave my lunch to a friend.
I opened the door for all the old women
who went into the bank on 5th Avenue
(and a lot of old women go into that bank)
and let someone cut me in line at the store.
The last thing I told my father was "Shalom."
"Shalom" means hello, goodbye, and peace.
After the third or fourth expulsion,
we Jews got a little too used to people
being taken from us. Perhaps
the word meant only for "goodbye"
was taken from us too.
The only word we have for the dead
is "neshama." It means soul.
The rabbis say the soul of the dead
is still with you. As if the person
never died at all. So where do I start
the story of how he died?
Do I begin at the car crash
and come up with a metaphor for
what his body must have looked like?
His heart steamed to water.
Or perhaps I shouldn't tell the story
in case it isn't true. In all the dreams
I have of my father, he does not know
he is dead. Every time I tell him,
his face crumples as if to say
I thought I could come back.
Momma FLips Through the Phonebook to Find me a Husband
and stops on a name with her longest red
fingernail digging her nail into the page like the
edge of a shovel
ready to scoop and display
the name is shiny
the clink of a new jewel
that you can still bother the sea to come out of it
her eyes scrawl across the page
cranes her neck to see
another half-eaten sun in the mouth of a
mountain almost in view
maybe he has that wide smile and a bright red tie
and he eats all his meals standing up
so he can get to the synagogue faster
and she circles and crosses names out
this man is too close to the neighborhood
that man sounds like he wears a toupee
like picking up scattered bits of gold
and dropping them back in
Amalie Kwassman is originally from Brooklyn, New York. She is a current MFA candidate in the Creative Writing & Environment program at Iowa State University and poetry editor of Flyway. She was awarded a tuition grant to study at the Juniper Summer Writing Institute. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Hobart, The Minnesota Review, Cosmonauts Avenue, Booth and elsewhere.