A Shayna Maidel
By Art Heifetz
Rivka stumbled into old age
With an air of bewilderment
As if she had strayed from the Concourse
Into a neighborhood where
All the signs were in foreign script.
Even her own body was unfamiliar,
Her once lovely olive skin
Tatooed with an archipelago
Of ugly brown islands,
Her silky silver hair,
Victim of a kabbalistic spell,
Now falling out in small clumps,
Her razor-sharp memory transformed
Into a jumble of disconnected wires
So that she called her daughter
By her dead cat's name.
Only her hazel-specked eyes
Retained their original luster.
Somewhere beneath the wreckage
Was the flaming beauty
She had been in Sheepshead Bay.
A shayna maidel,
Her father had called her,
As she strolled coquettishly
On the beach,
Pursued by suitors
Too numerous to count.
How to unearth her?
Perhaps all she needed
Was a little freshening.
Seated at her vanity,
She steadied her hands
To apply lipstick and mascara.
She rummaged through
A musty cardboard box
Retrieved from the back of the closet
And found a push-up bra
Her daughter had discarded
And an ancient summer frock
With yellow butterflies.
For the first time in countless years,
She put her cleavage on display.
A cerulean scarf of Chinese silk,
Gifted by her late husband,
Concealed the bald spots on her head.
She took the elevator to the lobby,
Ready to confront the world.
"Big date tonight, Mrs. G?"
Asked Juan, the Puerto Rican doorman.
Then, whistling through his teeth,
He added, "Que mujer hermosa."
"In Yiddish," Rivka told him,
"We say shayna maidel."
So that's what he began to call her,
Day in and day out
Each time he held the door.
"Shayna," he'd say,
"You look like a cool million."
In gratitude, she gave him
Her huband's Armani suits,
His Cole-Hahn loafers,
His Rolex, diamond tie stud,
And to complete the dowry,
A check for eight thousand smackers
Tucked into a Christmas card
And placed beneath the tree.
"A Juan, mi gran amor," it read
"From your shayna maidel."
When her daughter audited the account,
She had Rivka declared
And committed to a "home."
The shayna maidel departed peacefully
Without a hint of protest,
Serene in the knowledge
That the check had already cleared.
from the October/November 2012 Edition of the Jewish Magazine
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