I’m older than my father when he turned bright gold and left his body with its used-up liver in the Faulkner Hospital, Jamaica Plain. I don’t believe in the afterlife, don’t know where he is now his flesh has finished rotting from his long bones in the Jewish Cemetery—he could be the only convert under those rows and rows of headstones. Once, washing dishes in a narrow kitchen I heard him whistling behind me. My nape froze. Nothing like this has happened since. But this morning we were on a plane to Virginia together. I was 17, pregnant and scared. Abortion was waiting, my aunt’s guest bed soaked with blood, my mother screaming—and he was saying Kids get into trouble— I’m getting it now: this was forgiveness. I think if he’d lived he’d have changed and grown but what would he have made of my flood of words after he’d said in a low voice as the plane descended to Richmond in clean daylight and the stewardess walked between the rows in her neat skirt and tucked-in blouse Don’t ever tell this to anyone.
Hooves were forbidden, but she fed us stringy liver, thick tongue, gray kishkes crammed with something soft. She had a bulb of garlic, a handful of salt, some wretched carrots. Drew out blood with salt, clamped her grinder and fed chunks into it and forced them down. She let me turn the crank, and red worms fell to the bowl. I ate according to the Law and the cow's flesh became my flesh. Now I lower my head to eat, moan when I wake from the fear dream, the one where we shove one another down the ramp toward the violent stench and the boy's knife. He lifts his arm in a rhythm I've always known.