Shoshana’s Mother

By Joshua Sassoon Orol


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
the microwave…
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Image: “Trophees” by Nelly Sanchez, collage, 40×30 cm., 2018

Joshua Sassoon Orol

Featured Poet


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.

Shoshana’s Mother
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
the microwave
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
stuck to
the applicator stick
the frayed strip
honeyed crystals
on the revolving platter.
Dad behind me goes
“Uchh, again Deb!”
In the next room
my mother
rolls her face deeper
into the back of the couch
snores a snore
too loud to be accidental.

Shoshana’s Guitar
הגיטרה של שושנה

I can hold so still       you could string me

arms up     shoulders to ears
                                              nickel-wound steel
              looping the base of each finger
winched tight
                                               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
                                                            called action

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

Grammar Lesson
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.

By Joshua Orol

Joshua Sassoon Orol is a trans Jewish poet from Raleigh, NC, writing with the texts, tunes, and stories passed down from their mixed heritage family. Joshua completed an MFA at NC State University, and received an Academy of American Poets prize while at UNC Chapel Hill. Their poetry can be read in recent or forthcoming issues of Driftwood Press, Nimrod, Santa Ana River Review, and Storm Cellar.