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Last Passover In Montreal

  • Rachel Rose

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He wakes from his nap chortling to suck, dark
hair tendriled with dream sweat, and you thirst
 the thirst of a lactating woman in April,
you are parched with fear of death, his, that last
 small parceled-out breath, the moment you
reach him, that ache in the soles of your feet rising
 to envelop you. And so you sleep
with him wedged between you and the wall in the now-
 sterile marital bed, damp with a fine mist of milk,
sweet pampers, chapped skin. You sleep on edge,
 on the edges of your small, gassy creation,
your milk marking a trail of drops
 from the kitchen to the bedroom: Gretel’s crumbs,
the salt that follows you home
 after a sea voyage,
leading back to his raven chuffs,
 his peacock screams. You offer yourself,
blue milk, gold cream,
 you feed him, and your breasts,
dark apples, gleam.


Now that you are leaving, you allow yourself
some tenderness for Montreal, now that you know
 you will never spend another winter snowbound
with a colicky infant, resigned
 to speaking French like the immigrant
you are. Now you walk the city gently,
 he hangs from your shoulders, a bag of heat
a lead apron, and his feet beat time
 against your thighs. Lambs, hooked
in the windows of the Portuguese groceries,
 pock newspapers with their blood,
Hassidic girls flit past you
 in their flowered petticoats, bright butterflies
on trottinettes, swerving between the black-
 clad Greek women with thick ankles
who block your path, brush off the dappled laugh
 of the bare-chested, sweet-
nippled pur laine boys on rollerblades
 who no longer bother trying to run you down
to make you look at them.


At first your nipples sprayed blood, it foamed
out the sides of his mouth as you cracked the joints
 of your feet in pain, drowning alone
on your side of the bed. He swallowed you wholly,
 mouth wide as a trout, sharp bone definitive
under his gums, one leg flung over your shoulder,
 casual as a tail. Slowly your anemic body
restitches its new shift. Every hour
 you make your uncomprehending pilgrimage:
thirty steps from bed to crib to fridge.
 What you need, you believe,
is a new city.


It’s the stink of Avenue du Parc you’ll miss,
stands of Caribbean mangoes, Latin avocados,
 bagels sweating in brick ovens. Clean sheets
jig on the fire escapes, Hassid
 schoolboys chant their lessons
through the open windows. But you are not
 kosher, you are blood and milk
transfused into the one who should
 outlive you. His bones knit into place,
teeth jell to opaque permanence.
 You have joined the middle generation.
Your sympathies have shifted with your blood
 offerings, imagining deeply for the first time
your parents as they became parents
 in a city you’ve never visited,
your parents before the exile,
 a coarse salt tossed over the shoulder.
It’s hot twilight
 and the baby’s sleeping,
the cup of wine is far too sweet
 and evening brings its own
 entitlement to gratitude,
anger to startled prayer.