Radio Nights in Candyland
How Mother did love melody—
in spite of herself, in spite of prohibitions, Mother floated on rhythm.
Sometimes on the stoop at eventide, her mother’s hand skimming, leaving
flour dust in her braids (so that Mother had premonitions of an
old age that was never to be hers), sometimes skipping down the street,
sometimes in the technicolor gloom of her father’s grocery store, her
fingers drifting to the jar of licorice, sometimes in the weeds beneath the
bridge, releasing fireflies into the dusky heavens, snippets from the wireless
would send her foot tapping, her skirts flying, her soul dancing.
Little girl Mother came to understand swing.
How Mother did love song—
she seemed to know them all. Ballads, commercial jingles, labor songs,
love songs (requited and otherwise), lullabies, patriotic songs were
absorbed. As the Sabbath Queen was welcomed, as the men praised
the Woman of Valor, Mother accepted Bing’s invitation to join him in
his hit of the day. Of course he could depend on her to know the song;
of course she joined him, again despite the prohibition.
How could she refuse Bing? In the turmoil of the marital bed, in
the gray of the sun intervening, Mother reached for these sweetmeats for
only their lusciousness could still the trembling of her hands.
How Mother did love her stories—
the trysts between doctors and nurses, doctors and patients,
administrators and … transfixed Mother. The bouts of amnesia, the legal
battles, the rescues from storm embodied the possibility of both focus
and flight. Forbidden from viewing the airbrushed faces and the sculpted
bodies on the filth box, Mother improvised instead with radio.
There, she quickly recognized voice and inflection and understood the
slights barely veiled by dialogue peppered by pregnant pauses.
Anchored in expertise, Mother became a prophet of plot prediction,
a scholar in praise of the implausible.
How Mother did love art—
words arranged, distilled into alchemy. In all our together years Mother
never attended a concert, never visited a cabaret or dined at a supper club,
never sought an autograph, never stood onstage herself. Sometimes in
just one of those spaces, in a woman alone at a table adorned by a single
orchid, connected to the singer by an elemental force, I am certain I see
her. Only I turn instead to the woman on her knees over the kitchen
floor tiles, her varicose-veined legs extended from housecoat, gladdened
momentarily by the sounds above, or hunched over a stationary bike,
pedaling against sugar rising, ever rising, to a compromise that can never be.
Yermiyahu Ahron Taub is the author of four books of poetry, Prayers of a Heretic/Tfiles fun an apikoyres (2013), Uncle Feygele (2011), What Stillness Illuminated/Vos shtilkayt hot baloykhtn (2008), and The Insatiable Psalm (2005). A number of his Yiddish poems were recently set to music by Michał Górczyński and performed at various venues in Warsaw, Poland. Taub was honored by the Museum of Jewish Heritage as one of New York’s best emerging Jewish artists and has been nominated three times for a Pushcart Prize and twice for a Best of the Net award. Please visit his web site at www.yataub.net.