What Now?

| August 6, 2018 | 0 Comments

My Ode to a Romanian Immigrant
by Laura Walcher

Iris Bloom in Central Park
(A poetic and personal history )

Time comes for her in small cocoons,

One child or another of us; or
her melancholy memory of her husband –
scenes of the city in which she lived, knowing
her generous and boundless energy improved it.

Firmly framed early scenarios weave in:
as a child, writing letters for illiterate lovers
collecting for each a Romanian dime;

Shivery, watching as the sickest, youngest sister,
hopelessly received a new name from the rabbi
to elude the angel of death.

The Villagers in Harlau’s first cinema
(owned by Tatia Sura Zeilinger)
scorned the screen, gaped backwards instead at
the projector. Well, she thought, that was fascinating, too.

On the long trek to Bremerhaven,
she learned to hold it in for hours,
tasted the fear of the voyage to America
where never could she pee in a public restroom.

Her name change at the gate, Eda to Iris,
Blum to Bloom, and Americans knew!
for shortly after, the New York Times headline
read, “Iris Bloom in Central Park!

Their first Bronx trolley, all seven kids
passed a blazing tenement, and as one,
leaped to their feet, shouting in
Romanian, the word for “fire!” “FUK! FUK! FUK!”
(humiliated when everyone laughed.
Didn’t they care that people could be hurt?)

Today’s pictures rarely focus.

Not like the one, still sharp as steel, our dad crooned
“My Blue Heaven,” the family anthem,
substituting her name for “Molly and Me,”
He sings, “…and our babies three… ,” and
out of tune, she will hum his parody.

Grit: The Red Cross Bloodmobile she wielded through traffic.
Real: The frantic races, the crush of cars, the satisfaction of delivery.
Guts: The time she nabbed the Yonkers’ “cat burglar.” Really.

“What a blessing,” she’ll say, “that your dad didn’t suffer,”
the totality of that thought overwhelming twenty years of his decline,
and her own imprisonment in his suffering.
That’s the blessing.

In the prodded moment, the pall of forgetfulness falls from my mother’s face.
In the click of her quip, she flashes still sunny dimples.
Of course she knows the trolley story is hilarious,
and she’s grasped a picture, one piece of her life.

(Iris Bloom Kaplan, my mother, turned 96 this year.)

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