babushka

Dishes rot in the sink.
A stocky babushka
Armed with an electric iron
Flattens the unruly underwear of a boy
Who brachiates from her apron-
Strings to his basement friends “the rats.”
 
Stop playing with those rats!
She screams over the drip-drip of the sink.
Pausing to retie the apron,
She checks her babushka-
Borsch, shakes her head at the boy,
And forgets the iron.
 
The smell of burnt biscuits reminds her of the iron
And releases her from the scratching needle thoughts of rats
Crawling and clinging to the boy
Under the floor of her sink.
Pouting and tisk-tisking with a babushka-
Stare she wipes her hands on the apron.
 
The blue pin-striped apron
Confines her large bosoms with iron
Arms as strong as her babushka-
Will. She bites her lip, but can’t silence ruminations of rats,
“Friends,” who watch, smiling, as your family sinks
Into the quicksand-history learned by the schoolboy.
 
But he is just a boy.
He should be protected from the slaughter by an apron,
A watered down history, that bleaches bloodstained sinks,
From the cages of iron,
That let through only rats
And little-girl-babushkas.
 
He should grow untroubled by babushka-
Nightmares of bony asphyxiated boys
Whose only friends were rats
That licked their dead pale blue lips, the color of her apron
Stripes. He should not know the cast iron
Faces of the soldiers that rinsed her father down the death camp sink.
 
He should be allowed to cling to her babushka-apron
And his little rat-friends; to be a boy
Who doesn’t notice the stench coming from the sink.
 
BD 1992

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