His mother’s queries and dearies in their kitchen
slide off her tongue to the girlfriend’s mouth
and she politely eats them.
This girl makes her potato-eating home state
a punchline, a hell, a ratio:
one million acres, one million people.
She had to google shiksa
after he teased her with that;
and gridlock she thought was traffic
after a football game, but yes,
she has had bagels.
Today it is Christmas, though not on these streets:
The Poplars, The Birches, The Oaks.
Blackish-green trees not weighted by tinsel,
nor plucked, strung cranberries. She is not
resurrecting a manger scene tarnished
by storage, unwrapping a cry of surprise,
holding green gelatin between her legs
as the family car glides
by blinking ranch house silhouettes.
Girl sits at the farm table
covered with MOMA mats, where her cup,
streaked like threads of tears,
rests near Menorah candle wax hardened
into purple pools someone touched
while hot, and they are
eating salmon boneless,
talking about the homeless,
then a story of the Holocaust, a relative
throwing a letter from a murderous train:
Don’t tell Mama and Papa
what happened to me.
She’s stunned through;
sobbing in the bathroom;
for the girl on the train
for her own unspeakable loss,
for the snow on the ground in Idaho,
that her father skis over,
her mother buried under,
a red poinsettia on her grave.
hristine Pakkala is a graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop (MFA, 1993). She was born and raised in Idaho and now lives in Connecticut where she teaches at the Westport Writers' Workshop.