The Foreigners

The Foreigners

came from a shtetl they swore

didn’t deserve a name.

The youngest kept finding stray

stones from the old country

in their pockets. Aging ones swayed

in murmured prayer, sucking

hot tea through spoonfuls of jam

to sweeten the strange

words that stuck like stray seeds

in their teeth. The oldest still

squinted into the ocean

between the nameless place and the raw,

numbered streets. Those never left

the block. When we grandchildren

asked why, they laughed at us

in Yiddish, pursing their lips,

gargling gutturals they said meant

“Not for children.” They were

born gray-haired, spattered with grease—born

to embarrass us just by sitting, resting

swollen feet on plastic slipcovers,

muttering “Cossack” and

“pogrom.” When we asked why

they didn’t have TV, they made us

apple strudel, herring and challah,

complained we ate like birds. Busy

stockpiling precious jars of used and re-used

chicken fat, what did they know of Twinkies

and Wonderbread, of astronauts

who drank neon Tang on the moon—

of classmates with tiny upturned

noses that can smell

where a child comes from?  




More Remarkable Finds
On reading “7-Year-Old Girl Starves in U.S. Border Patrol Custody”

On reading “7-Year-Old Girl Starves in U.S. Border Patrol Custody”

I heap my family’s plates as if that would feed her. But who can chew? Anyone can smell the whitethorn acacia.
By Then

By Then

Where did you go? my father asked from the bed I sat beside when I told him I was back. I told him I went home to fetch the family.


Every time I see a bird, I apologize. There but for the grace of . . . well, not God, certainly.


Track your submissions at Duotrope