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Blue Lace
by Carol Aronoff

She didn't understand the long sleeves,

long face and even longer silences.

She sipped her cocoa in a porcelain cup,

ate just out of the oven, out of this world,

rugelach and listened to the Hit Parade.

Her aunt was a dark swan in the kitchen,

sadly rustling feathers as she reached

for Lipton teabags in the white cupboard

with green enamel trim. Her niece noticed

a bit of blue lace etched into her aunt's arm

as her sleeve fell back with the reaching.

It didn't seem polite to ask. Ten years–

her aunt lay dying–nightgown, a white sail

billowing out over lonely sea bed, ruffling

at the wrists. They spoke of kitchen days

then, when simple tasks kept terror locked

in battered trunks in the basement,

when the old country was never mentioned

except in recipes for stoellen.

She held her aunt's worn hand in hers,

stroking bony fingers, alabaster skin.

What had looked like lace

to a younger girl, was really a faded serial

number tattooed on her aunt's forearm

like the marks on a side of beef.

My Jewish numbers, her aunt said,

inscribed on my soul, so I won't forget.

from the book Her Soup Made the Moon Weep  

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