by Rochelle Jewel Shapiro
Hurricane Donna, September 1960
When the sea meets the bay, water bursts
like a bomb over docks, breaks the ropes
of fishing boats, knocks them into each other,
smashes their small hulls, rushes up the block
toward my father’s grocery store,
where he bends and straightens
to dip his bucket, his chest
heaving as he bails and bails, a lit
Lucky Strike hanging from his lip.
The burlap bags of eyed potatoes he hefts
off the floor to his marble counter, labels
wash off cans and jars, Pepsi bottles
bob. Dampness surges
into my father’s bones, his lungs.
Sewage brings him back
to the stench and swill of steerage.
My father holds up a heavy shelf.
Cans rain down on his head, his
shoulders, the rib he already broke.
I lean sideways to look past the X
Mother taped on the window
to prevent glass from shattering in on us.
There he is, my father, coming up the block, rowing
a loosed boat with a broom handle,
rowing to a house he never thinks of
Salt in bays, in borscht, in sorrel soup.
Did the bay of Odessa ever flood
when my father was a boy?
Hiding in the forest, my father
heard the baying
of the Cossacks’ dogs.
Like water, wars ebb
and rise again.
Rochelle Jewel Shapiro’s novel, Miriam the Medium (Simon & Schuster, 2004), was nominated for the Harold U. Ribelow Award. She has published essays in NYT (Lives) and Newsweek. Her poetry, short stories, and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in many literary magazines such as After the Pause, BoomerLitMag, Brief Wilderness, Brushfire, The Courtship of Winds, Figure 1, La Presa, The Midwest Quarterly, Mudfish, Mudlark, Neologism Poetry Journal, Packingtown Review, Typehouse Literary Magazine, Westview, The Iowa Review, The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review, Stone Path Review, Frontier Poetry, Santa Fe Literary Review, Stand, Carbon Culture Review, Cider Press Review, Cutbank Literary Journal, Doubly Mad, Edison Literary Review, Evening Street Review, Euphony Journal, Inkwell Magazine, Amarillo Bay, Bayou Magazine, Poet Lore, Crack the Spine, Compass Rose, Controlled Burn, Cumberland River Review, Flights, The Furious Gazelle, Glint Literary Journal, The Griffin, Grub Street, Hey, I’m Alive, I-70 Review, Isacoustic, Los Angeles Review, Reunion: The Dallas Review, East Jasmine Review, El Portal, Litbreak Magazine, The Virginia Normal, Chantwood Magazine, The MacGuffin, Memoir And, Moment, The Moth, The Nonconformist, Rougarou, Negative Capability, Penumbra, The Louisville Review, Amoskeag, Organs of Vision and Speech Magazine, Pennsylvania English, Entropy Magazine, Rio Grande Review, riverSedge, Rogue Agent, The Seattle Star, Seven Circle Press: A Literary Micropress, Sierra Nevada Review, Steam Ticket, Streetlight Magazine, Swamp Ape Review, Licking River Review, Whistling Shade, Peregrine, Gulf Coast, Existere, Passager, Midway Journal, Moria Literary Magazine, Empty Mirror, Sanskrit Magazine, Typishly, The Literary Nest, Underwood Press, Willow Review, Sweet: A Literary Confection, Waxing & Waning, and Wrath-Bearing Tree. My poetry has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize, and she has won the Branden Memorial Literary Award from Negative Capability. Spry Magazine nominated her poem for the Best of the Net. Rochelle currently teaches writing at UCLA Extension.
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