Issue 28 — Jacqueline Jules, Lawrence Schimel
Tidal Basin Stroll (April 2003)
A woman from Wisconsin
washed her hands beside me
in the FDR Memorial bathroom,
oozing delight to be in Washington
"just at this time."
I told her I came every year
when the local news tells the natives
Potomac Park has peaked.
We smiled, without exchanging names,
and pushed the heavy iron door back
to the fragile white clusters cuddling in the wind.
A pilgrimage for me since the sixties, when my father
drove the family a hundred miles
to walk the Tidal Basin concrete and
celebrate spring beside thousands of war protestors.
Thirteen that year, I found a pair of college students
kissing beneath a green blanket
as appealing as the cherry blossoms —
much as a group of teenagers at the water's edge today,
gawking at a large gray fish floating belly-up.
It seems almost appropriate, considering the headlines,
that the strongest smell here is dead fish.
A siren bellows in the distance and I worry
over soldiers in Baghdad who may never
see these pink blossoms, pride of their nation's capitol,
symbol of friendship between two nations
who loved and fought and loved again.
Low pulpit signs tell the story of Tokyo's gift in 1912
and the festival celebrated yearly (except during World War II).
As I read the tale, I wonder
if one day the Iraqis
will emulate the gracious Japanese,
who call us friend after Hiroshima.
Tidal Basin Stroll (April 2003) was included on the audio CD 31 Arlington Poets, produced by Paycock Press, 2004.
Copyright © 2009 by Jacqueline Jules.
September 12th (Arlington, VA)
Muscled men with sun-drenched skin
were out the next morning at 9 a.m.
fighting weeds with gas-powered blades.
After hours of watching the smoking rubble
of collapsed buildings on my TV screen,
it was a comfort to sit at a stoplight
and watch men sweat
over bushes and green grass
in the bright September sun—a comfort
to see others resuming jobs as if
the lives we led on Monday still mattered.
Yesterday's siege of smoke and sirens
had not touched this tree-lined street
too far from the Pentagon to smell the flames.
I drove on familiar roads,
flanked by buildings and sidewalks
unchanged by the dark voice on the radio
reporting the dead and missing.
Except for light traffic, the streets
appeared to lead back to
Monday's office aggravation
over a broken copier and
missing toilet paper in the ladies—
not stories of spouses who saw the plane hit
and children who felt the rumble in their classrooms.
I drove on, recalling the wide blue eyes
of the woman on the lobby couch,
silent tears inching down her cheeks
while the dark voice on the radio
reported smoke at the Pentagon,
swallowing the world
we knew before.
Copyright © 2009 by Jacqueline Jules.
Jacqueline Jules is a poet, librarian, and children's author. Her poems have appeared in Poetic Voices Without Borders, Christian Science Monitor, America, Sow's Ear Poetry Review, Sunstone, Potomac Review, and The Mid-America Poetry Review, among others. She won the Arlington Arts Moving Words Poetry Competition in 1999 and 2007, Best Original Poetry from the Catholic Press Association in 2008, and the SCBWI Magazine Merit Plaque for Poetry in 2009.
She wore glass spectacles
for her vision was clouded,
as if that night her family's home
was burned to the ground in a pogrom
the smoke had gotten into her eyes
and never left them.
They named her Cinderella
when they pulled her from the ashes,
their hearts going soft because
she was only three years old.
Years later, her stepsisters teased
that she was named Cinderella
because she was dark as soot.
They pinched her bold nose
and pulled her black hair
and powdered their pale faces
to go to parties with the Viennese elite.
Cinderella, of course, was never invited
to attend these lavish social functions;
her foster family happily left her at home,
working while they danced, dreaming
of the day she was asked to accompany them.
She was always certain it would not be long,
and therefore worked unfailingly, hoping
While her stepsisters primped and prepped
to waltz among princes, Cinderella walked
to the market, stepping over sewage in the gutters,
dodging the nimble rats that boldly crossed
the streets in search of food. A kindly frau
who sat beside a cart of squash—yellow gourds
and fat pumpkins like lumpy little suns—stopped her.
She took Cinderella's hands into her own.
"You look so sad, dear. I will help you."
The woman drew Cinderella into the shadows
of the alleyway, and pulled papers from her pocket.
"Take these," she said. "They are mine,
but I am old. Go to America instead of me.
Find a new life. Send for your family,
if any are still alive. I am too old to begin again.
But for you, there is still hope for you."
Cinderella stared at this woman. "I am
no Jew," she said, handing back the papers.
She walked away, but the frau's words—
the insinuations, the generosity—
haunted her. She walked faster,
trying to outrun the echoes in her mind.
Passing a shop window, Cinderella saw
a pair of slippers made of glass.
If she had been invited to the ball,
she thought, she would love to wear
those slippers. She stared at them,
longing, and her reflection stared back:
swart, square. Semitic.
She bought the slippers with the grocery money
and hurried back to the now-empty house.
Cinderella powdered her face
with the stepsister's cosmetics,
put on one of their dresses.
She tied her dark hair in a knot and hid it
beneath a silver scarf. But still her nose betrayed her.
She didn't care. She slipped on her glass shoes
and made her way across town to the gala event,
dreaming of finding a prince who would love her
and adore her and take her away to an enchanted life
where it did not matter that she looked like a Jew.
The party was as dazzling as she had always dreamed.
No one stopped her at the door, or paid her any
notice at all, it seemed, though some people stared
at her. No one spoke to her. And then a shriek
made Cinderella the center of attention,
as her two stepsisters ran toward her.
"You are not fit to be seen here!" they cried.
They snatched the spectacles from her face
and, in front of the assembled crowd,
crushed them underfoot with a delicate
twist of the toe, grinding downward.
Cinderella's vision blurred without her glasses.
Tears burned in her eyes, and then suddenly
the smoke that had clouded her sight
for as long as she could recall
lifted. She saw, at last, what she had always
overlooked before: these people had killed
her family, had meant to kill her as well.
She stood there, numb, as the stepsisters
poked and pushed her. They stepped
on her toes and broke her glass slippers
into hundreds of sharp splinters.
Cinderella left the shards of her glass shoes
on the dance floor and walked barefoot
out of the hall, leaving footprints of blood
behind her. She was never seen again.
Copyright © 2006 by Lawrence Schimel.
Kristallnacht first appeared in the journal Mythic 1, edited by Mike Allen, Mythic Delirium Books, 2006. Most recently it appeared in Poetic Voices Without Borders 2, edited by Robert L. Giron, Gival Press, 2009. Reprinted by permission of the author.
Lawrence Schimel is an author, anthologist, and translator who has published over 90 books, including Fairy Tales for Writers, Best Gay Poetry 2008, Two Boys in Love, First Person Queer, The Future is Queer, Desayuno en la cama, La aventura de Cecilia y el dragón, and ¿Lees un libro conmigo?. He lives in Madrid, Spain.