Jeanne Hebuterne, Seated
after the painting by Amedeo Modigliani, 1918
Perhaps she always knew her life would be short,
tied as it was to Amedeo's. She sits on their single bed,
the white cover reflecting the colors of Nice in winter,
raspberry, a touch of mauve and yellow--
the duvet and pillow puffed up, and Jeanne,
20 and full with their first child.
Amedeo has a hunch it will be a girl
and he tells her how much he'll spoil her,
and then he goes on about the croissants
he'll buy everyday from the bakery downstairs,
and then the toys, dresses, books, and of course
she'll be a painter so her room will be one big canvas.
He steps into the painting and kisses her on the forehead,
and she notices how hot he is, it must be the
fevers, and she embraces him, forces herself to imagine
how he'll walk through the door with the croissants
and they'll be so warm, the butter melts in his hands.
I say Kaddish for my parents
at the Wailing Wall
and then find two stone
to take home
and place on their graves.
On the flight home
the pilot announces
we'll stop on Cyprus to refuel:
the gas at Ben Gurion
might be contaminated with explosives.
I miss all my connections.
The journey of two stones
could have been so simple.
We line up to play bombardment
and everyone wants to be on
Bobby Thewman's team.
We know the rage in his eyes
as he pulls back his right arm,
the white ball suddenly not a white ball.
We've all had it hurled into our stomachs,
the greasy breakfast eggs an unwanted return.
We go back to the same camp in the Catskills
every year, children of survivors
from the same German-Jewish 'hood--
so we can name the perpetrators,
hear them screaming in a language
we speak to our families, identify
our grandparents in photos and letters.
We're stunned when Bobby Thewman
doesn't return one June.
He moved in with relatives across the country,
his parents having made a pact:
his father firing the first of two shots.