Last of the Red Hot Lovers
Last of the Red Hot Lovers
As nice as the Obama is,
as handsome und sexy
und ever-thing else about
his talking with speeches,
he’s not for me, my darling,
no - he’s just not jewish enough,
my grandmother says to me.
But if I was a schiksa, you betty believe
I’m gonna call up the Obama,
and I’m gonna say in the receiver -
this is if he’s not married now,
because Bubbie don’t fool around -
so I’m gonna say ‘Obama,
this is the Bubbie, and I am a real hot ticket !’
And does she start laughing
at herself, and slapping her hands
in her lap, reaching for her cup and saucer,
and breaking pieces off the cake ring
I’ve brought from Canter’s.
You know darling, Canter’s is not kosher.
No. But I won’t tell grandpa.
‘Hey, when is Zeidie coming home anyway ?’
He’s at schul, but between us
I think he’s got another
girl on the side. And does she start laughing
at herself again.
( I’m gonna ask her,
maybe today I’ll try. )
But she beats me out of the gate as usual.
Nu, what you making, mine kindt ?
Still mit the glazes ?
the kiln is full of the new mugs
for the shop on Montana. ‘
That’s my kindt, good girl,
never saw the old country,
never saw the factory,
but she has the making in her-
mine kindt, and she caresses my forehead
with her ancient hands.
I’m going to ask questions
I think it’s today.
It’s so obfish, so obfish
that you are mine kindt,
and my father, of blessed memory,
obfish that you are mine and his and ours.
‘Ob-vious, Bubbie, ob-vi-ous ‘
I know it’s ob - vious, but I say it mine own way …
(I’m going to ask questions, Bubbie,
questions you don’t want to talk. )
do you …
remember when you were in Germany …. ‘
yes, mine kindt, yes
‘and do you remember, before the war
when you were in Bremen
and you lived with great grandfather and … ‘
my mother, yes, I remember
‘so, do you remember the last days before,
before you, were moved out of your house ? ‘
yes, I remember. You wanna story,
I know, you always wanny story. So –
here we go,
We were a community of artists
my father and my uncle and the whole land
as far as you could see up the road was our land
and we had 58 workers and we made the finest
pottery and dishes and tiles
in the country, but you know this,
you are the legacy.
They can take away the factory
and they can take away the house
and we can move to another place,
but they can’t break us
and they can’t take away our truth,
and that’s why I keep saying,
why don’t the Palestinians move to Jordan or Oman,
or work something with the Obama
to move the ones who want a house and a job in America
to come over here and like we did, and start again ?
And she sits with her mouth waiting for the answer.
‘I am not sure why the Palestinians don’t move here Bubb,
I think they want to live in their own homeland’,
You think we didn’t wanna stay
in our homeland ? We was there almost seven
hundred years. But Bubbie’s going off the
subject, like my kindt always says, nu, where was I ?
So the night was cold
when the soldiers came.
was on the ground und the house
was so beautiful as we walked away.
My mother had a piece of fur around
her collar that shook in the
wind. You look a little bit like
her, mine kindt. Und so und then und
years passed and we never went home again
and now the workers children
own the factory and live in the houses
and it’s still standing to this day.
And she looks and smiles and
pushes the pastry between her teeth.
‘Thanks, Bubbie. I wish I could
have been there with you. You know,
in the snow that day. ‘
I know you would, my dearest kindt,
I know that you would have stood up to them
with your goodness
and so I am glad that you weren’t there
and that you came later to the Bubbie,
and now we are best friends, nu ?
‘Yes, you are my best friend.
But, Grandma, can I ask you something
then, since we are so close ? And you won’t be mad ? ‘
Never could be mad with my kindt.
What is it, you need a little money ?
‘No Bubbie, it’s not that.
I want to know about what happened. ‘
What happened ?
‘Between when the soldiers came
and when you arrived in America.
The part between. ‘
And she’s not smiling anymore and
she’s not hungry anymore
and the air got sucked out of the place
and it’s my fault.
‘Forget it Bubbie, I’m sorry.
I always wanted to know, ever since
I first saw the number on your arm
when I was little but
I know you don’t want to talk about it
and that it’s not nice to ask, forgive me
I’m sorry to upset you. ‘
You wanna know, huh ? You wanna know what
they done to Bubbie ?
‘No, actually I don’t
I’m sorry, Bubbie ‘
I say - and I feel like crawling
under the coffee table
And her eyes steel up
and she says
Everything what you think they could have done
to the Bubbie, they did,
but I don’t wanna say
because the words
can’t do what the meaning of what happened is -
maybe if I could explode the house
and the next house and the next house
and all the neighbours would come out shrieking
and the mountains would burst fire up into the clouds
and this went on for twenty seven months
and everyone around was all helpless und starving
then you could know what they done to Bubbie,
but to say
they tortured me,
or they killed my mother
in front of my eyes, to say
a small phrase
or a smaller one like
if I say these
like a grocery list, to make
a terrible recipe
I maybe should just be talking about
Bubbie sits with me,
she sits until the sun goes down
and lets me sit with her
in the quiet of her living room.
I’ve cried so hard
for my grandmother
that my head is pounding
and she knows it, because she knows me.
She stands up and takes me outside. The cars
and the night air is strange comfort. Holding my hand
she walks and says
When the Russians came
to take us out from there
I was 88 pounds,
I walked with a stick
in the sanitarium for a year and I
couldn’t speak for two years,
I was a scrap of me,
the whole family was all killed,
I had typhus, and they thought that I could never
have any children
after all what happened down there.
Und when we came to America
we worked so hard and laughed so hard again
and there was new wonders like
Uncle Miltie on
the television and how the new synagogue
got raised up on Wilshire, and food like
you couldn’t believe and the bread man came in the morning
and we would go outside to pick the
loaves we wanted from the back of his van,
and some of the shelves had rolls and some had pies and
some had cakes
and he always had a necktie on ! The bread man !
And things was like this and so
for a while,
and then your father came and then you came and
you say the hell with all the nightmares
and you run to the door when the bread man
rings his bell.
Bubbie and me are walking,
Our arms and hands are weft together
like folk dancers readying
for a swift promenade,
but we go carefully.
Little sighs come out of
Bubbie, as she pads the side streets
and I remember something
that I meant to tell her:
‘Bubbie, by the way,
Obama’s not jewish at all,
you know, he’s not even ‘…
what are you talking,
of course the Obama’s a little jewish
and she walks me
all the way
to the corner.