Poetry | September 01, 1997
A Cup for Elijah
It is 1975, the year before my parents stop speaking.
Old, rabbinical, Uncle Leo takes his glasses off to gesture,
while on my shoulder my brother softly dozes.
At last, triumphantly, my aunt holds the plate
of offerings aloft. On it a broken eggshell
and the shankbone of a lamb. My father still
is happy; not manic, not depressed.
He stands with an electric carving knife
near the windowsill geraniums
in a pinstriped Brooks Brothers suit.
My mother, a stylish urban hippie, takes off
her sparkling turban to kiss him.
From the kitchen drifts the smell
of pot roast and string beans and sweet potato pie.
And it is beautiful and fragile, that instant,
but I can’t keep it from what happens next:
my mother swings the door open to starlight;
my father pours an extra glass of wine.
Dazed, I gulp at my grape juice,
watching the pendulum of the grandfather clock
flicker in the candle’s light. A dish falls
in the kitchen, cracking. Someone curses.
My now-dead uncle taps me on the back.
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