1959 ~ Michael Montlack


My usually mouthy mother back in that adoption agency
sitting so mannerly beside her well mannered husband,
her long modest skirt painstakingly selected then ironed
flat as a sheet of paper just to plead with a woman
issuing bleak warnings as swiftly and thoughtlessly
as she stapled baby statistics to profile folders.

 We came here hoping, my mother might have said,
her shaky whisper climbing an octave not high enough
for that agent’s fence: I’m sorry, we don’t mix races or
religions. And Jewish girls aren’t giving up their babies.

 We came here hoping—like my grandmother said
at eighty-something, a bit off kilter, the coffee tray
tottering in her hands, as if still aboard that ship
sailing her away from her cold mother Russia, out
of throwing distance, so no neighbor could ever pelt
her—the Dirty Jew girl—with another moldy potato.

 She came here hoping. And my mother inherited that
hope—here, where markets trade daily on it.