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from Thirsty In The Ocean, (c) 1980 by Lynne Bronstein

The Trainee

I am not guaranteed
for perfection
or even efficiency.
I am the trainee.

I've had a lot of experience
being inexperienced.
It's I'm to blame
for every cracked cylinder head
that caused a plane to crash,
for your kid's doll
that won't say Mama without a nervous stammer,
for fingerprints
on the headlines of the newspaper.

In life I cause chaos.
At every new job
I try on experiences
like new dresses
but
nothing I touch stays innocent. Alchemized
by the ineptitude thatseeps from my flesh
knives fall to the floor,
parcels fly away,
and people get hurt.

I dreamed God told me I was fired
for having so far worked a lousy gig
and I said
please give me a break.
I haven't been here long
and I'm still learning how.
In another couple of years
I might get good as this sort of thing.
God said
I'll think it over.
The thing is:
you'd better stop telling me
what's wrong with my work.
You're a trainee
and trainees don't needle the boss
without they gets the axe.
I wanted to correct
God's grammar on that
but I held back.
Knowing I'd shoot off all wrong;
stumble over a teletype of my own badly chosen words.
It's true.
I am just the trainee.
What do I know?

from Border Crossings

(c)2004 by Lynne Bronstein



Bones and Ashes



I am descended

From a long line of rabbis.

A genetic memory

Of the captive audience

Tells me I must speak,

Must always speak

To whatever congregation

Is huddled before me.



In Lublin town, great grandfather

So they tell me, kept a school,

Not a cheder but a high school

For Jews of promising intellect.

His name appeared as the author

Of books on theology.

The books and school

And all that told of their existence

Burned with the bodies

Of my relatives still in Lublin

After the cold invasion

And the ghetto uprising.



Swirling in that bitter breeze

Ashes carried the intoning

Of my great-grandfather

And of the bright youths bending an ear

To lessons of the world.



Through a shroud of deafness

And almost forty years I hear them:

Late but heeded messages

From Treblinka,

From Mae Donnick.

(Some say the Holocaust never occurred.

Of course. The Holocaust

Like many Jewish memories

Is a memory of nothing.

A history of nothingness,

Daily upon more nothingness

And to be without a past

Is surely to be without a future).



No, this line begins again

With what my dreams and memories tell me:

A son escaped Lublin and came to America

To sing the liturgy on the East Side New York

With a wife, four daughters,

And a son who was my father.

And I resume the liturgy

In a different language

For a different audience

But the intent's the same.

I must speak against every image

Of wind blowing ashes,

Of congregations silenced,

Of words, ignored, unheard,

Locked up, smashed,

Burned, gassed,

Put in a desk drawer and forgotten,

Stamped with the disapproval

Of a court I never elected,

Cut off for lack of funds,

Laughed down, interrupted.

All invasions of the temple

I shall stare down with an implacable wrath

And keyn eyn hora against the evil eye.

May my poems and stories be the living echo

Of that lonely hiss relict of the Polish nights,

The whispering of the Bronstein line

To its congregation of bones.



Glossary:



Lublin-city in Poland, formerly the home of the largest Jewish population in Poland outside of Warsaw.

Cheder-religious school where students are instructed in the Torah (five books of Moses).

Treblinka, Mae Donnick-concentration camps. My relatives in Lublin died in these camps.

Keyn Eyn Hora-a saying "to ward off the evil eye."







from OnTarget Magazine, Issue 8/9 (c)1995 by Lynne Bronstein



James Bond Makes Love To Rosa Kleb



"Life" he tells her as he pours the champagne

"is an endless vacation.

Glittery hotels and the

finest vintages.

Just a little time out here or there

to bump off some enemy of freedom."



He smiles and strokes his gun in its holster.

She sighs audibly. She hasn't had

a vacation-ever.

She doesn't really like her life.

Strict obedience has made her facial features

the dour blobs they are.



"I'm not the kind of woman you go for,"

she stammers (and it sounds so strange

in her Russian accent).

"If you close your eyes

I'll be Garbo as Ninotchka.

Tell me a joke.

I hear you're good at jokes.

You British are known for that.

I need to hear jokes!

I need happiness!

What do you think has made me so ugly?

Why...I'm so frustrated.."

She kicks the bed.

Uh-sorry.

Forgot about

that knife in her shoe.