My Name is Needle

On the playground of my school
     I was Needle in the sun
  and shade beaten near the tree
                  my blood as red on asphalt
                  as if it mattered then
My family lit no candles
My father said we were a tribe
                        yet saw no need to pray or follow
Why do we have to be Needle             
I asked Grandpa Harry
                        who slurped his borscht with gusto leaving
                        a trail of sour cream on his clipped mustache
                        his clean-shaven chin beaded with red drops
                        of beet juice that stained his shirt
Who laughed and sighed
                        better Needle than Nudel or Nodel
                        or even Noodle
He was a tailor and they were
                        all tailors, all those Nudels
And Nodels who somehow
Spun life from a common
                        thread handed them from
                        Cohen and Levy and Moses that was just as strong
As Ariadne’s string
                        that led from maze to sea
Stories came to me one by one
Stanzas from my people’s own great woe
Yitzhak of Bludow
                        breadwinner for Gitel
                        born in the Nudel clan
                        and like his father    a tailor
All the gold in his teeth collected and melted
It seemed to me that over there
                        all the Nudels and Nodels
                        stitched clothing and sheets until
The thimbles fell and the wheels stopped turning
                        and then there were none
                        or too few to count
Someone later counted those piles
                        of shoes and divided the number by two
There was Josef Nodl
a tailor from Kremenets
                        or was it Krzeimieniec
Every decade seemed to change the word
                        changed the world
And whether Abram Nudl who married
                        Bila and died in Treblinka
                        alone because      he was alone
Sewed shirts for the mayor
                        or peasants didn’t matter
                        because dead always meant dead
And the jumbled piles of clothing
                        along the railroad tracks remained unclaimed
These days his synagogue
                        is a bus station     only
                        the old cemetery’s stones remain
Cracked tombstones with flowered motifs
                        one with a pitcher that meant
                        a Levite rested below
All on a hill overlooking the bustling town
Where no one can read Yiddish
                        inscriptions carved for the ages
Shlomo Nudel
                        Rachel Nudl
Saul Nodl
Decorated with
                        griffins, birds, bears and grapes
Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu Melekh ha‑olam, bo're p'ri ha‑gafen
Blessed are You, LORD, our God, King of the universe, Who creates the
fruit of the vine.
On the playground of my school
                        I was Needle in the sun
                        And shade      jumped petty hurdles
Compared to some      then danced
                        With those who got away
A whirling gyre of freedom.

 

 

 

Doors and Windows

Screws dropped in sighed release.
Nine doors sagged, fell, were carried away.
The old truck’s springs groaned.
Lilac branches reached, but failed to slow the abduction.

Nine cracked and pitted doors stacked;
     bound to be stripped in an acid wash
Their hinges flapped wagging tongues.
Slam! One still shudders in anger.
Creak! Another opens for love.

Who now remembers all their entrances
     and exits, the slinking in
     or the stumbling out?
Dumb, two-way glass windows remain.
They shared everything, both ways, of life’s drama:
     kisses, slaps, embraces, lingering despair,
     creative ecstasy and slow death.
They are free of memory and collective guilt.
Look in, look out, blood on the floor, scream
     sounds filter through, but no evidence.
    
Only the doors retain in flaked lead deposits
     centuries of you, us and them.
In the acid wash it will all be stripped
     decades and days of human imprint
     swirl clockwise down and away forever.

Watching wide-pine doors being driven away
     the mute, neutral windows
     resolute in rippled pane silence
Catch the image of the truck’s tail light
Flicker then go blank.

 

 


[Burgess Needle was born in Boston and served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Thailand. He worked as a school librarian in Tucson for thirty years. His poetry has appeared in Connotation Press, Blackbox Manifold (UK), Concho River Review, Raving Dove, Iodine, Blue Lake Review, Nutshell (UK), Liquid Imagination and DeComp among others.  Publications include: Every Crow in the Blue Sky (Diminuendo Press, 2009); Thai Comic Books (Big Table Press, 2013); Faded Photo Brings it Back (Kindle, 2014) and Sit and Cry: Two Years in the Land of Smiles (Wren Song Press, 2017). He lives not too far from Middlebury, Vermont with a hazel-eyed woman of wit, charm and beauty.]

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