by Howie Faerstein
My uncle, the house painter, had hands that were meaty
but the rest of him shined like milk. His mother and brothers
and sisters neglected him, always referring to him
as feeble-minded, a simpleton, but Morris had a wife,
Goldie, who loved him and together they lived
on Mt. Eden Avenue. The family, what was left of it,
had fled the Zamechover shtetl in the Pale of Settlement,
surviving the pogroms years before the Nazis
exterminated the millions.
Today, in a museum in Santa Fe, I saw an exhibit
of Navajo spoons decorated with a swastika motif.
The curator’s note read: only the good and true
could wear swastika jewelry. It was a sign of great reverence.
Then I remembered seeing Uncle Morris, my Russian godfather,
laid to rest in a coffin in a Brooklyn chapel.
Goldie plodded down the aisle as her clan of Hungarians
called for a knife. Astride him, she rent the fabric covering her heart.
In his casket, a squinty smile steeplechasing
his deeply lined face, Morris looked so like a Navajo.