In the winter Christmas was a celebration
Celebrated somewhere else.
Ellery ran wild with the dogs and Miriam
Was counting candles lit on the menorah.
Portraits lined the stairwell; in the kitchen
Mother spun the dreidel; in the parlour
Grandpa played the fiddle.
Money was extant in pencilled
Envelopes and holidays were over
Even when we were not done with school.
The children would rush home to Santa,
Counting presents and the ornaments on trees.
The snowflakes would still fall and Ellery
Went out to build a snowman.
I would not hear the stories,
How they gassed and burned and died.
I would not play with uniforms,
But I would not learn the scripture.
Sometimes Miriam would mutter adonai.
Ten years ago, when we first buried grandpa,
She began to practice all the letters.
Ellery tossed down her pen,
Gathered her belongings,
Deemed it all too hard.
One night, the eve of her bat mitzvah,
We saw her praying to the Christmas tree.
Mother says she wants to be like others,
To collate a sum of presents, to sing carols
Born in Bethlehem, to find nativity in mangers.
Mother says that grandpa never taught her
To play fiddle, unlike Miriam,
Who runs to Sabbath on the arms of
Men in kippas. Mother says that Miriam
Will marry them someday.
I recall the fallen snowflakes and the snowman’s
Carrot nose. Ellery was baptised Monday morning.
I do not think she properly learned German,
But the news was that she flew off to Berlin.
Mother says there’s nothing left of that,
Miriam proceeds to smash the glass.
We found her burning pages like the lights on our menorah.
She said, “I am a Jew, but what is that to you?
We no longer burn the faces, only the
Traditions left behind.
We have erected
Monuments to poverty and youth.
One day I said I’d help her see the truth.
Inaugurated communists obliterating truth.
Today that is what Ellery communicates
To Jews. Tomorrow revolution seeks
To manacle the youth.
But what is that to you?