B.A. Newmark

Ruchama, In Her Worn Nightgown



It has taken so long to arrive here, late with

 dust in my shoes

and my pockets

turned out like some clown in a silent film. 



Sometimes it was like

Rowing across the lake where all the fish were named for saints

And feeling like you were not a tourist,

(in other words feeling smug)

and then being slighted

And at last knowing, how fragile it is to belong.




Ruchama you had a white dress, before white dresses.

Do you remember it?

I do,


on two counts,


1. it was so much more than I could have ever afforded, even now

and 2. It was braver than I have ever been, especially now.



 Nu, your feet are bare,

The wells of your clavicle filled with indiscretion. 

No need to worry the last bleeding cuticle

or to scour the teakettle at all hours of the night.


O you must be so cold,


Go, go back to bed.  What is happening will go on without you. 

It does not concern you.


Stay out of it.   No good can come of it.



I am sorry to say that there is no one left to comfort

or to betray. 


Whatever beauty was

She has picked another hill to die on.





They were good times though,

those parties you used to throw,

And how you served


entire meals of revenge, the sweet breads of ambition,

the small red fruits of petty resentment. 

You knew.


Really, what else can you offer to a room full of opportunists?

With their hands outstretched like ghouls in a B movie


They got what they deserved

and that is so rare in this life. 

What did you tell me?

You had the salon repainted and the shutters opened wide

and even the workmen

yes especially the workmen thought

of bedding you,

it was hot repetitive work, 


they all imagined you

naked.  We all always imagined

you naked, with a pool of clothing at your feet.


That thought and those conversations

pure, like an American song on the green radio:


You don’t believe I love you,

Look at the fool I’ve been.

You don’t believe I’m sinkin

Look at the hole I’m in.



By that time, so many had abandoned their rituals, in the fields,

In the camps, in the gulags—



They understood oppression not as the boy in fawn colored pants

Looking out of the French doors onto a garden,

but they knew it

from a hut, the inside of a latrine.


Then there was the man, in the army greens

he waded through the canal

choked with corpses, both theirs and ours. 

And he told those stories over and over,


or the story was told around him

after he left.



Of course you know

He did not get separated from his unit

He walked away

at nineteen—armed to the teeth

We all know what happened from there, not pretty. 


And he left behind a lesson that would serve.


But even he went on to marry and have a life,

(meaning a wife and children)

Alongside a beach and striped umbrellas.

But of course you know that,



How else could he have slipped so neatly

between you and what could have been?

  How else was there always sand on your stone floors?





I am not sure if I fully understand the premise

But it interests me.

In each generation there are 36 righteous men.

I expect one or two must have been impulsive youths,

hellions in jaunty grey caps. 


Or just boys playing chicken on a long dark stretch of highway,

and lost.

They are not angels these men, who may be fewer than 36

they may not even be righteous

But they carry a generation.

I can’t say how to manage the darkness or the isotopes of faith


You can no longer manage even the red scarf or the sassy quip,

they seem sad and ridiculous—old woman, ugly woman.


Because even if they are silent—long gone

the ghosts of guests are well positioned around the room,

just where you placed them

one in the blue velvet chair,

the other just leaning by the bookshelf.


They are not listening they do not look up from the papers they hold out in front of them. 

Ruchama, your hand,

you have a tremor.





In the hot wind of August

and in another century

somebody on the fourth floor throws open the door and steps out onto the porch,



Ruchama, you are lovely with a belly full of loquats


that you picked up under the tree, just outside the gates.

Was it stealing? 


No more or less than the man, 


   what he took from you,

   he carried back to her

I suppose everybody needs to eat.

B.A. Newmark

<em>Edit Poetry</em> B.A. Newmark

B.A. Newmark's received an MFA from the University of Virginia and has work published in "The Gettysburg Review," "Gulf Coast," "Western Humanities Review," and Unpious: voices from the Hasidic Fringe. Her short story collection, The Last Lion, was a 2012 finalist for The Flannery O'Connor Short Fiction Award and she has work forthcoming in "Blackbird," and "Boulevard." She is currently completing a novel set in Austria during the Aunschluss.