From the Valley


 
  One skirt didn’t skim the knee and a dress, although black 
  and solemn had a bodice that went too low.  A favorite blouse 
  was too cheerful but finally a black top went into a skirt 
  that was straight to the ankles and a jacket covered it 
  since it had no sleeves.  For your head  my daughter 

  shouted and grabbed a linen napkin out of the basket that 
  held dinner buns the night before.  Shaking crumbs away 
  she folded the black square into my purse.  You can’t be without it
  they’ll run you out.  My daughter shook her head. 
  They’ll know I’m a fake  moaned my husband. 
  Don’t have one of those undershirts  with fringes dangling

  We stared as my skirt, long to the ankle suddenly parted 
  to show a leg tanned with the valley sun, how summer 
  touches the body in our part of the world. 
  My God was the chorus from husband and daughter as I 
  pulled my legs and skirt together.  They’ll know we’re fakes
  my husband repeated and turned the car 
  in the direction of Jerusalem. 

  With a dark circle on his head he smiled at the Father of 
  the Bar Mitzvah whose fringes responded to the Jerusalem evening 
  and I bent toward the boy’s mother colliding with her 
  wide hard hat.  My husband did not join the dancing men 
  who flung themselves in a room with bearded musicians yelping 
  Shoilem, Toirah and Rebbe oi Rebbe into a frenzied sweated march. 

  The  women celebrated their joy between tables near the crowded buffet 
  while the men raised the Bar Mitzvah boy high on a plastic chair 
  and praised the Lord they feared.  The child’s tie and ear locks shook 
  and my husband, a dentist, who wouldn’t join the men said kindly 
   the child needs an orthodontist. A woman in a dress the color 
  of my husband’s army uniform pulled me to her 

  tried to grab my right hand and twist me into rhythms left 
  then right, then two in and back, not the hora I knew so well 
  but I never let go of my skirt, never let them know 
  I’d brought shades of summer from the valley 
  far from the hills of Jerusalem. 


- Rochelle Mass


 
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