family Jewish poems & stories ukraine

This Precious Meal

This Precious Meal

Can I make you some fried eggs?
Simple words, a simple gesture really.
I eat the words, the offer, more hungrily than the eggs,
Though I languor over them to slow this precious meal,
For it isn’t this aging Jewish woman,
Holocaust survivor from and in my grandfather’s home town of Khotyn in the Ukraine,
But my own grandmother, dead for many years,
Once again risen to feed her Teditchka some eggs,
And how about some bread? Pickles? Some tea?
Yes please, desert, thank you.

Often we wonder if we had the chance
To be with a departed loved one once again,
What we would do?
I know now.
I’d eat, savoring each forkful of time,
Sipping joy and sweetness,
With only a secret tear peeking out for a nibble of truth.
I’d indulge quietly, with the inner voraciousness
Of my heart consuming it’s own openness.
Tasting the pain, beauty, grace of the miracle.
Oh yes, sour cream, please, thank you.

She blushed when I gave her a gift upon meeting her,
Shyly and pink, like a young girl, which she once was,
As was too my grandmother, as was her mother,
And hers,
And hers,
And hers.
Instantly awakening the hunger of my heart.

What a sweet surprise, grandma, too see you again today.
And here I thought I was coming to find
The ghost of your husband, silenced by his suffering
In this town where once thrived thousands of Jews, which now holds but 29,
Aging and fading, all of them.
Soon gone.
The Jews of Khotyn will finally be gone,
My grandfather of course already among them.
Srul, the husband of my grandmother’s apparition, tells me
They have always felt less than them.
I feel so protective of you, I could open skulls.

We pray in the Jewish cemetery together,
Words lilting off fading engravings and crumbling stone.
Thousands of graves, yet who to dig the last one?
And who then to tend to them,
To the synagogue,
To the memories?
These are my people, and like my risen babushka’s generous tray of sweets,
Will soon be gone. And who will know enough to miss them
As I already do?

3 replies on “This Precious Meal”

Ted, I am “feelin”your words and this story is so touching. I have felt Sonia's presence several times since her passing and of course, I can still see her at the fridge door listing all the things she wants you to eat, how bout some salami, eat some cheese, here's a nice bagel and I usually rejected it all knowing I lived in a bikini and could not eat all that stuff and yes, I would eat it all now if it would make her happy and we could do it all again. Sandra

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