Image: “Trophees” by Nelly Sanchez, collage, 40×30 cm., 2018
Joshua Sassoon Orol
The name my mother would have given a girl–
centuries ago meant lily, but now means rose.
Blame it on the cupped hands ever digging
in Jerusalem’s cycle of desert and bloom
or that Hebrew won’t separate
between prickles and bulbs
as in the folk song
“Erev Shel Shoshanim.” We don’t know
if it will be an evening of roses or lilies
and for some this is troubling enough
to condemn flowers altogether
but that won’t stop the night
from falling slowly or the spices
on the wind, or that soon
it will be so dark that all of us
those that like it bloom to bloom
edge to whorl, or a budded mix
will be unable to tell one from another
except by running a hand, petal to stem.
אמא של שושנה
How does a mother teach a son
about the body of a woman?
A teen in need of a shave
I pop open
an hour after dinner
in my left hand a plate
piled high with fasoolya
deep green pods shining
against oiled yellow seeds
always the thinnest beans
always the longest
grains of rice. There
blocking my snack
a glass bowl brimmed
with thick orange wax
the applicator stick
the frayed strip
on the revolving platter.
Dad behind me goes
“Uchh, again Deb!”
In the next room
rolls her face deeper
into the back of the couch
snores a snore
too loud to be accidental.
הגיטרה של שושנה
I can hold so still you could string me
arms up shoulders to ears
looping the base of each finger
so the grooves bite
the gaps in my knuckles
and the strings that shave
from each other
their untuned iron draw
are drawn taut past chin and collar
to gap high over waist
in the trembling space
This body would be instrument enough
naked as rosewood solid and resonant
except right here
where I’ve begged to be fingered
rhythmically above a hollow
that whets its edges
then fills itself and sings
שושנות Shoshanot (n. female, plural) – Lilies/Roses
In Hebrew every word is butch or femme.
Every word tops or bottoms. There is no
switch or vers. Everyone in a buzz cut
or everyone in a sundress. That’s beauty.
Some words have a trap
between their legs. Some words
only crossdress among friends.
For all these reasons
Shoshanot is not a proper word. If it was
you’d say it without the final English negation–
not knot, but note. Show-shah-note.
In Shoshanot the stress comes at the end
on not, on note, at the end.
When I make it into a word
I hope it bitchslaps the fluent listener
as it does now, like when someone says
I’ll bring the flowers
then they show up with a dumptruck
and pour them out on your front steps
back tires crushing the gnomes
petals smothering the walkway
little solar lights
like periscopes in the swell.