Kiddush, after services – Rachel R. Baum

When I saw you, I stood up straighter
You always stared at the floor
Not because you were shy
Although maybe you were that too
The curve of your back
Forced you to perpetually look down.

Everyone knew you came for the food
A modest spread after services
Cookies, a challah, grape juice, sometimes tuna salad
When you thought no one was watching
You opened your purse
Scooped a handful of rolls into it
Snapped it shut.

Did crumbs invade the folds of your wallet
Cling to the bristles of your hairbrush
Or was your pocketbook empty
As if synagogue was a grocery store
And you remembered to bring your reusable bags.

There were mutterings of not nice unfair shameful
From congregants who witnessed
Your weekly scavenges
But the rolls would have been thrown out anyway
No one but you took them.

Maybe you fed the bread to the birds
Maybe it was the only sustenance
You would eat all week
This was not a question anyone ever asked
Saving you from discovery
From potential humiliation.

I wished I had asked you to come home with me
Inquired about your health and your grandchildren
Fed you a proper lunch, then drove you back
To your subsidized housing apartment
Full of good food and happy conversation
And a bag of rolls from my table.


Rachel R. Baum’s poetry has appeared in The Jewish Writing Project, Poetica Review, High Shelf Press, and The Raven’s Perch, among others. She writes the blog BARK! Confessions of a Dog Trainer and is the editor of Funeral and Memorial Service Readings Poems and Tributes (McFarland, 1999). 

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