Vassar Student Review

Vassar Student Review

(t)o my holy suffering ancestors

By Jacqueline Krass

i remember:


your sacred martyrdom in poland,

your creased palms in brooklyn,

the cramped yiddish noises

of your small-roomed apartments, where old friends

and distant cousins drifted in and out.


we have achieved everything 

you wished for.


and still my grandfather,

he died of a heart attack all alone

in the spacious basement 

of a house he could not afford.


father, recite the lord’s prayer

the way you learned in elementary school,

your old testament name pressed

between your praying hands.

you don’t know the mourner’s kaddish

and neither do i—


at shabbat service

i turn my head in confusion

and shame, unable to join

in the intimate knowledge 

of those who cover their faces

and beat their breasts.

the words remain opaque—

not words but shapes—

the worshippers’ faces

like solemn stones to my unbelieving eyes,

my desiring gaze.

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