Were like burlap bags with fingers,

toughened by years of picking potatoes

in fields as vast as the eye could see

on her father’s Vilnius vegetable farm.

On Friday afternoons I’d be at her side

as she haggled her way down a parade

of Blake Avenue pushcarts, shopping

for Friday night and Saturday meals.

She always stopped at the fish market’s

tub where she would net a lively carp,

club him dead, mumble a quick Kaddish,

and make me carry it home for the good luck

I would bring to her weekly gefilte fish.

She also picked up a few pickled herrings

with a stink that never fully left her hands.

While her husband spent every free moment

praying in the synagogue across the street,

she took care of their tenement house:

Delivered residents’ babies, collected rents,

repaired broken windows that had to be glazed,

fixed clogged toilets down the hall and kept fire

going in their coal -fired kitchen cook stove.

Going to sleep she would massage my back

with an undivided tenderness that transformed

her calloused hands into the silken hands of a Geisha.

She kneaded the muscles in my back the same way

she worked the dough she used to bake challa.

She pried open sprouting wild flowers on my spine

that bloomed into a vine the color of love.

Now, I call my wife the Super, since she also unclogs

toilets, glazes broken windows, takes care of our garden

and does all the shopping and cooking.

As we grow old, my wife and I take turns

massaging each other until we are ready to sleep.

Instead of praying like my grandfather, I write poems

and release them into the open windows of the firmament.