In Europe, Mothers Enjoy Two Years of Maternity Leave
Gun deaths are rare and infant mortality is lower than here,
and when the high-speed rail workers strike
the whole city shuts down.
I could move there with my family and learn the language —
in the middle of the night, that thought —
I don’t really have a home town.
The closest thing I have is Brooklyn.
The boardwalk, and the pop-smack of men playing handball
under the boardwalk, their backs sweaty and all shades of brown,
Grandma changing out of her flowered bathing suit
right on the beach, seagulls and AM radio,
guys pushing carts chanting over the ocean and the people
Get yer fudgy wudgies here!
Get yer cold beer here!
Ice cold soda here!
But there’s still Yiddish in Williamsburg,
in the southern corner of the neighborhood
a few streets sounding like the Lower East Side
in the early 1900s, when my grandma was born in a toilet
and learned what a carrot tasted like
at public school while her brothers manned the paper stand.
She told me the only carrots she knew were “soup carrots,”
and after she died, I closed the door on Brooklyn.
Maybe I wasn’t a New Yorker anymore.
Maybe I’d never live in the city again
or even visit Coney Island. The boardwalk, the Cyclone, the beach.
I can’t move (back) to Europe —
I’ll have to live with unpaid leave,
401(k) and survivor’s guilt.
I suppose that’s something.
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Photo by Brian Geltner/Flickr