by Sylvia Ashby

After I married my goy husband
my father sat outside
muttering to himself.
For a whole week he sat,
sat on his stool muttering
outside a Midwest produce store,
surrounded by onions and apples--
Michigan’s best. Even though
I was married by a Rabbi, no less--
a communist, psychiatrist Rabbi--
this was LA after all.
But still he sat muttering.
Day after day.

What was he muttering
in that immigrant English?
Talking to my mother perhaps,
my long-dead, religious mother?
A mother I had barely known.
Explaining? Fighting with phantoms?
Or arguing with his tortured self?
Ever repeating worn-out words.
Over and over.

Finally, when the arguments end,
when the solitary quarrels halt,
what words hushed the noise in his head,
squatters at home in his head?
I don’t know.
Sixty-five years later
my brother tells me the story.
Sixty-five years later
my husband is gone
and now a strange arrangement
of noise wanders into my head,
an incantation circling silently.
Round and round.

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