Pleated Skirt (Tante Fela)

Helena Lipstadt was born in Berlin and lives in Los Angeles and Blue Hill, Maine. Lipstadt’s poems have been featured in Rattling WallLilithBridgesSinister WisdomTrivia: Voices of FeminismMedium and Common LivesLesbian Lives. Her writing has also appeared in the following anthologies: The Challenge of Shalom, From Memory to Transformation, and Every Woman I’ve Ever Loved: Lesbian Writers on Their Mothers, Lipstadt is the author of two chapbooks, Leave Me Signs and If My Heart Were A Desert. Her prose-poem Do Widzenia won silver in the Travelers Tales’ Solas Awards. Lipstadt has also been a writer-in-residence at the WUJS Institute’s Arad Arts Program in Arad, Israel, and at The Borderland Foundation in Sejny, Poland.

Pleated Skirt (Tante Fela)

I am not as tall as I was
when I looked like Polly Bergen
and strolled down the shady
Warsaw sidewalk, a leather bag
in the crook of my arm.
Today I am bent
like a Palestine sunflower
picked over by crows.

In the courtyard below, the clatter
of quick feet on stone. The Hasidim
to their morning prayers,
me to mine in the kitchen.
I stretch these knuckled fingers for my coffee
and find a ghost battering out of the steam.

I still have the skirt pushed
to the back of my closet,
pleats like knives.
Like a locust in stubble
after the hay is cut
I have made my peace.

But the blowing sand talks to me
of such long loneliness
I sometimes look for
what is no longer here,
a man in a certain gray suit
with his hat
tilted over
his eyes.

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