Poetry

Passover Drunk, Eleven Years Old

Photo by Mahava. CC0/Public Domain license.
Photo by Mahava. CC0/Public Domain license.

It was at the Seder
when I was eleven
that wine first made
my world a Chagall painting,

golden light bathing Grandpa
in his blue-and-white, fringed tallis
and black yarmulke as we raised

our first, stately
cups of Manischewitz,
and this year it wasn’t
grape juice in my cup.

Ah, the snowy white field
of tablecloth and a snow-bank
of folded linen layered
with ritual matzahs,
and our cups re-filled
immediately from the rosy bottle
for the next raising

as we intoned
Our Story from
wine-stained Haggadahs,
soberly at first
(and boring, no matter
how hard I tried!)

Later, the dinner break,
two cups inside us by now,
we’d already read why
on this night we recline,
though the only one I really
saw reclining was the chicken,
and for obvious reasons.

Portions of dishes were doled out,
cheroses which I loved,
horseradish which I hated,
and all the rest,

and after the meal,
searching the house
for that pesky Affikomen,
and it wasn’t much
of a dessert either,
when found!

The Seder resumed
at a less stately, in fact
a frantic pace,
as though racehorses
were coming up
on the Children of Israel;
and finally the singing of “Had Gad Yah”,
“An Only Kid”, each verse longer,
all four cups inside us now
and a few toasts as well

and the house
starting to spin
as I chased

my cousin through all the gold light
and the sound-warp of family schmoozing
finally freed from the scratchiness
of my grey flannel pants and
something like scratchy grey-flannel
over my mind, as well—

all of this,
these riches, surrounded
and cushioned by the rich black night
blanketing Grandpa’s flowerbeds
and the green hill rolling down
to a little stand of forest and then
the creek where the frogs lived,

a hundred crickets and bullfrogs
chanting up at us
as we sat out on the porch steps—
chanting an immortal hymn:
“To Life, To Life”.