Tisha B'av Games of Counting

by Hannah

comments by:


What if a row of three girls,
Legged like marble, statued with slim ankles,
Sat in khaki and indian cotton on a college velvet couch?

What if they passed the joint on a Wednesday,
Arms cocked around a current lover
What if they drank ten dollar wine?

It doesn't change that two hours later,
One will be sitting on a wet spot,                                             
One upstairs, looking east, the townhouses patinaed,

The red lights from the hospital glaring.
Their conversation will remain absolutely identical.
The blondest one among them, recently burned by July,

In lactation and worry over a missing red month,
Will drink the most out of her coffee mug, exhale,
And start the conversation with impossibly white teeth.

The others will respond in kind kind, flip back hairbands,
And remain in their rut.  What if nothing was spoken over?
What if the inevitable future arrived, a complete surprise?

The darkest girl with the streaks of brown will still smile,
Hunch over a full glass, and say, on the out-breath,
Tomorrow is a fast day.  Two thousand years ago my people

Crowded into the stone walls of Jerusalem, their tongues dry.
The streets crumbled into sun and dirt.                                        
God finally remembered where His last fingerprint

Dried after the last wet day of creation.  (He lifted it
With little more than a wet kiss.)  We've had to make
Our own water ever since.  What if she took a brief pause for effect?

So, tomorrow I will not eat.  Or drink.  What if the girls smiled
And bloodied their gums against the closed grin?
What if she didn't speak again, and they returned

To their episode of late night Roseanne?
There isn't a difference.  Will God still raise her
as eishes chayill?  Amen, selah.                                        


Accourding to Mike Magee:

From: mmagee@dept.english.upenn.edu (Michael Magee)
Date: Thu, 22 Jul 1999 08:54:43 -0400 (EDT)

Hannah, I think the move you make to transition from the various
future-anxieties of these young women to the compensatory arena of history
and myth is quite deft.  (I'm reminded that, for too many college-aged
women, every day is "fast day," though without the logic of religious
service behind it.)  One line which jumps out at me as unnecessary,
perhaps a hindrance, is "What if she took a brief pause for effect?" -
which seems overly dramatic, one too many "What ifs."  In fact it might be
worth thinking about whether the narrator should play such a significant
role in the poem: how would things be different if the poem was carried
along by the dialogue between these women, or by a more displaced
narrator, a narrator less certain about the various past/future ironies at    
work in the conversation?  Might be worth thinking about, but I like the
poem, as usual you handle the language with dexterity.  -m.